Would You Undergo Brain Surgery to Prevent Obesity?

Researchers say 'deep brain stimulation' could help curb binge eating
Binge Eating, Which May Be Prevented with Brain Surgery
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Sure, binge eating is a problem, especially when it's a diet-all-week-binge-all-weekend issue, but that's hardly enough to necessitate brain surgery, right?

Well, some researchers think not.

Led by Casey Halpern, a neurosurgery resident physician at the University of Pennsylvania, a team of researchers have been examining the effects of "deep brain stimulation" on eating habits in mice.

Researchers surgically implanted an electrode in a region of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, a place that normally isn't properly regulated in binge eaters (humans and rodents alike, the study says).

The implant is then connected to an external stimulator, like a pacemaker, which triggers continuous electrical pulses to the brain.

The results? After the mice recovered from surgery, they were fed high-fat food every day for one hour, and the researchers examined how much they ate. Without using stimulation, the mice binge ate (25 percent or more than daily caloric intake) consistently.

After the brain stimulation was turned on, however, they found that mice ate approximately 60 percent less. Without the stimulator, binge eating returned.

Never theless, brain surgery isn't going to be an obesity treatment for a while, since, as Halpern notes, "Doing brain surgery for obesity treatment is a controversial idea... However, binge eating is a common feature of obese patients that frequently is associated with suboptimal treatment outcomes." Let's just make it the last resort.

Jessica Chou is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @jesschou.