We’ve all been there: you’ve drunk enough to sedate a horse and are now famished. You can’t go home yet - because hunger pangs - so you sniff out the nearest kebab, chicken or burger shop and order everything.
It’s a modern day ritual for most partygoers. But have you ever stopped to ponder why, during your 4am binge, booze always causes such intense hunger?
Scientists have discovered that ethanol in alcohol tricks your brain into entering “starvation” mode - and they’ve dubbed it ‘the aperitif effect’.
The link between alcohol and overeating has baffled experts for years, particularly as alcohol is calorie-dense and calorie intake usually suppresses brain appetite signals.
With obesity becoming a global health epidemic, the link between alcohol intake and overeating is becoming a recognised clinical concern.
In a new study, scientists discovered that the ethanol in alcohol triggers AgRP neurons in the brain, which are usually activated by starvation and evoke intense feelings of hunger.
In a study of mice, the AgRP neurons displayed “electrical and biochemical hyperactivity” after being exposed to doses of ethanol.
When the mice were given the equivalent of two bottles of wine for humans, over a period of three days, they ate up to a fifth more food.
Scientists were then able to block the AgRP neurons, which resulted in the mice eating normal amounts once more.
Previously it was believed that alcohol-induced hunger was merely down to a loss of self-control. But it seems that it’s all in the way our brains are wired.
Writing in the journal Nature Communications, scientists concluded: “We propose that the alcohol-associated activity of Agrp neurons...is the critical step in alcohol-induced overeating.”