The study, which was done on mice, found that alcohol can activate brain cells that control hunger. Researchers injected mice with alcohol once a day for three days in an attempt to mimic an “alcoholic weekend.” The researchers found that mice who had consumed alcohol ate significantly more food than mice who stayed sober.
Although previous studies have already established a link between alcohol consumption and increased food intake, this particular study went a little bit deeper, uncovering the reason why this happens. Drinking alcohol activates components of the brain’s feeding circuits, specifically hunger-promoting brain cells called AGRP neurons. When the researchers artificially inhibited activity of these neurons, the overeating stopped.
This caused the researchers to conclude that alcohol causes “false starvation alarms” to go off in the brain, making mice feel hungry when they’re actually not. Although the study was done in mice, these findings likely apply to humans as well since we have the same type of neurons in the brain.
This new research is a good step toward understanding what makes us go bananas for food when we’re drinking, but it still comes with some limitations. In this particular study, the mice were injected with alcohol instead of consuming it voluntarily like humans do. This could have caused a stress response in the mice, which could also affect the brain and impact hunger.
More research may be needed, but for now, at least we can understand a little more about why that burger is so appealing after a few beers.