Carbs kill cells that regulate appetite

Carbohydrates don't just screw up your blood-sugar: they release free radicals that kill appetite-suppressing cells. The research is from a Nature article by Dr Zane Andrews, a neuroendocrinologist with Monash University's Department of Physiology.
"The more carbs and sugars you eat, the more your appetite-control cells are damaged, and potentially you consume more," Dr Andrews said.

Dr Andrews said the attack on appetite suppressing cells creates a cellular imbalance between our need to eat and the message to the brain to stop eating.

"People in the age group of 25 to 50 are most at risk. The neurons that tell people in the crucial age range not to over-eat are being killed-off.

Killer Carbs: Scientist Finds Key To Overeating As We Age


  1. Wow. From wikipedia:
    “They fill numerous roles in living things, such as the storage and transport of energy (starch, glycogen) and structural components (cellulose in plants, chitin in animals). Additionally, carbohydrates and their derivatives play major roles in the working process of the immune system, fertilization, pathogenesis, blood clotting, and development.”

    Sounds like carbohydrates do a little more than “screw up your blood sugar.”

    I guess this is just one of those research projects where the outcome is: everything in moderation. As if we didn’t see that one coming a mile away!

    Why does it get time on BB?

  2. Seems to me that not all free radicals behave the same way. you know, like not all bacteria, not all pheremones, etc?

  3. Thank you, #2. And yeah, what’s this doing on BB?

    I’d be willing to bet that worry about carbs is much more harmful than carbs, but I haven’t seen that study yet.

  4. This sounds very Atkins-ish. Who funded the study? Does any one know.

    I wanna know who is smearing my spuds and has my pasta in the Pillary!

    They will only take my aloo naan from my cold dead hands.

  5. “Carbohydrates don’t just screw up your blood-sugar”

    .. they provide you with much of the energy you need to live?

    Water! It doesn’t just drown you…

  6. Why does it get time on BB?

    Cory was (is?) a fan of Atkins, guess that’s why it’s on here. This one popped up in my Twitter feed and just reading the headline I knew who’d posted it.

  7. #1: You may notice, if you look at the researchers’ names, that the article you link to describes the same research as the one Cory has linked to ;)

    There seem to be two key findings here:

    1. Free radicals (from the blood?) directly drive the satiation response in the neurons which control it.

    2. The amount of free radicals generated in a high-carbohydrate* diet wear out those neurons over time (decades), so that the satiation response decreases with age on a high-carb diet.

    * By “high-carbohydrate”, they seem to be implying “high-sugar”. Sugars are carbohydrates, and are the monomers (building blocks) of complex carbs like starch, glycogen and cellulose. Because they don’t require enzymatic breakdown in your gut, they enter the bloodstream very rapidly after eating (within minutes), whereas the breakdown sugars from complex carbs trickle in slowly during the first hour or two after eating. As such, large doses of simple sugars can cause quite a spike in blood sugar levels, and this is presumably the source of the damage.

    I could be wrong, though – I don’t have a subscription to get to the actual Nature paper, and what the (publicly viewable) abstract was fairly arcane.

  8. *sigh*

    There’s too much bulshytt in the Monash press release for me to really figure out what’s going on. There’s slightly less in the Yale one, but I would need to get to the journal article to figure it out.

    The Yale press release implies that the satiation neurons produce the free radicals.

    The abstract from the article only seems to imply that hunger-promoting neurons produce free radicals.

    The Monash press release states that the free radicals are “created naturally in the body” and “attack” the neurons.

    There is no mention of damage to the satiation cells in the article abstract, but perhaps this is mentioned in the article itself?

    Or maybe Dr Zane Andrews is only speculating?

    I do love how the Monash press release (and all the citations around the blogosphere) use the singular when talking about the discoverer, while the research itself was carried out by no fewer than 12 researchers total, from 4 different institutions. I note also that Dr Andrews used his Yale affiliation for the paper, so it’s interesting that Monash (presumably his new institution) have decided to claim credit for it…

  9. Granted, I’m no scientician, but might carbohydrates suppress appetite in order for your body to eat lots of them? As any athlete knows, carbs are the stuff of long term energy needs. Couldn’t this be an evolutionary holdover from when we needed to either store lots of energy for later use, or conversely, expend more energy in our day to day activities… you know…in the days before we were largely (pun intended) puffy-faced, thick-necked, ham-fisted, gluttonous nabobs? Just a thought.

  10. …UGHH!

    Eat what you want, burn more calories than you take in through exercise and stop obsessing about every stupid molecule than goes through your body.

  11. This really chaps my ass.

    ( I’ve always wanted to say that )

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster is (of course) THE Free Radical.

  12. Live your life, die your death and the f**k with all those fears!

    Some of us don’t consider eating doughnuts by the boxload to be living life.

    Wow. From wikipedia:

    You’re using Wikipedia as a scientific reference?

  13. #15: You’re using Wikipedia as a scientific reference?

    Which part of the Wikipedia quote in particular do you disagree with or doubt?

    It’s an annoying trend to disparage something just because it comes from Wikipedia, even when it says something as blatantly obvious as “Carbohydrates fill numerous roles in living things”….

    1. Which part of the Wikipedia quote in particular do you disagree with or doubt?

      By its own policies, Wikipedia represents the most firmly established opinions, which usually means a bias toward old research and against new research. It’s also skewed toward generalism, which is appropriate for what it is. It’s a great tool, but an encyclopedia is a terrible reference in a discussion about new research.

  14. So Italians (pasta) and East-Asians (rice) are screwed? I guess we just have to substitute with coffee and cigarettes and being broke!

  15. “science” aside, I can say unequivocally that in my experience, this is complete and utter bullshit. I have gone on extended periods of eating mostly veggies and proteins, eschewing the “evil” starchy carbs such as wheat, rice, potato (I don’t eat much refined sugars to begin with) and I was ALWAYS starving. No matter how much broccoli, lettuce, string beans, cabbage I ate, whether cooked or raw, I was never ever satisfied. Same goes with meat. In order for me to feel satisfied and full and feel the need to stop eating, I need some form of starchy carb. Methinks this “research” is a whole bunch of hooey.

  16. This article seems to ignore many many years of research on endurance athletes. And yeah, there are areas of the world where the diet has carbs as a foundation and people still live to be mighty old.

    I look forward to the followup report saying that sitting on one’s ass all the time also affects appetite.

  17. Oh C’mon.

    This is clearly just a press release for Monash University trying to get as much coverage as possible by jumping to conclusions. They would need several more references to make this idea justifiable, not just one analyzing one neurochemical pathway.

    It looks like Dr. Zane Andrews just received his Ph.D. from Yale and was hired at Monash. This article is derived from one of two papers he’s helped to publish.

    However, if he’s looking for funding, this man might have just struck gold. Can you imagine how many processed foods conglomerates want these kind of statements made, by a ‘doctor’?

  18. Cory, I choose to disbelieve. Then again, I am a baker . . . Were it not for my ability to bake a scrumptious loaf of banana bread, I wouldn’t be happily married right now.

  19. The Assassin’s Diet (c/o Saphir & Murphy via Chiun):

    Firstly, select the weight you wish to be. Then eat things which attain this desired weight. If you wish be thinner, do not eat things that make you heavier, conversely, eat sufficiently to increase your weight if so desired.

    This is usually the only diet required, barring exceptional medical circumstances.

  20. re: JesusBouncesOneOffTheRim …..

    Ya know what really burns MY ass?
    A flame about 3 foot high.

    brrrum splish!

  21. Carbohydrates are in veggies and fruits and all sorts of things. Does this differentiate between types of carbohydrates?

  22. Antinous: please answer the question. What part of the Wikipedia quote do you disagree with? Is there any backup to your claims? Are you indeed claiming anything? Could you provide some links to literature perhaps? It almost sounds like you’re trolling…

    The research was not trying to say that we don’t need carbohydrates or that carbohydrates aren’t necessary for the body. In that sense, this is not new research. It’s saying something about the effect of carbs on appetite suppressing cells. I get your point about quoting an encyclopedia regarding new research. We weren’t debating that.

    Either way, the point was that the end result of this and many other researches is “everything in moderation.” Living without carbs is ridiculous, as is eating too much of them. WHO KNEW?

    P.S. If you’re just having a bad day, that’s OK too.

  23. “So Italians (pasta) and East-Asians (rice) are screwed? I guess we just have to substitute with coffee and cigarettes and being broke!”

    Actually this is, I believe, why those wonderful multi-course Italian meals have pasta served before the main course as an appetizer. Eating it makes you feel full, then more hungry, just in time for the meat dish.

  24. Carbohydrates are not essential nutrients in humans: the body can obtain all its energy from protein and fats.

    I can take Wikipedia quotes out of context, too.

    Why does it get time on BB?

    So…only research old enough to make it to Wikipedia should be posted on BB? A neuroendocrinologist published his research and you dismissed it by quoting a Wikipedia article. That’s like bringing an eighth grade science book to a discussion of post-doctoral research.

  25. When I ate an extremely low-carb diet, I was almost never hungry, and when I was, it wasn’t the desperate craving that it is when I’m eating a lot of carbs. The key to satiety is fat, not carbs, and it really doesn’t take much fat.

    Yeah, I lost weight like crazy. Gained it back when I couldn’t get low-carb products as easily (I’m a vegetarian, which makes it a lot harder), and gained more when I took up making chocolates as a hobby!

    I wasn’t just less hungry, I was a happier person. I didn’t have blood-sugar mood swings.

    It’s definitely not for everyone, but it sure worked for me. If only I can figure out how to do it when low-carb isn’t a fad (which it isn’t right now) I’ll go right back to it.

    1. I wonder how Cory, who’s vegan, manages low carbs. I get my carbs from fruits and vegetables and dairy products rather than starches, which just put me into a semi-coma. But my protein comes from meat. I wish that someone would hurry up and figure out how we can digest cellulose.

  26. I thought free radicals were released by mitochondria-I don’t see the connection to carbs in the article.

  27. I thought free radicals were released by mitochondria-I don’t see the connection to carbs in the article.

    I thought free radicals damaged mitochondria. Or maybe that was midichlorians. I need a reference.

  28. @ XOPHER: I guess we are polar opposites. When I ate low carb I was hungry all the time, had little energy, and was very prone to mood swings, swinging mostly to the sad end of the spectrum. When I do eat carbs, I am happy, satisfied, energetic and emotionally stable and I don’t feel like I need to be constantly eating.


    Yeah… But that’s how many people will react when they read this article. Just eat a balanced diet and you’ll probably be fine.

  30. Seyo: Yes, my position is that everyone’s body is different; you need to find the diet that works for you. I love carbs, but I’m much happier overall when I don’t eat them. That doesn’t mean it will work for you.

  31. DON’T EAT EGGS! Oh wait, go ahead…DON’T EAT BUTTER! EAT MARGARINE! Oh wait, eat butter…EAT THIRTY POUNDS OF OAT BRAN EVERY DAY! Oh wait, don’t bother…DON’T EAT CARBS! Oh wait…

    1. Actually, it’s been conventional wisdom for centuries that people who eat a lot of starches and sugars get fat. It’s only in the last few decades that the food scientists starting screwing with everyone’s diet.

  32. Cry, pls…stp pstng ths stff. Frst f ll, t s dsngns f y nt t spcfy f we are talking about complex carbohydrates or simple carbohydrates; there is indeed a world of difference between the two, as your body metabolizes simple carbohydrates at a faster rate than complex carbohydrates. In addition, the vehicle for carbohydrates–a baked sweet potato versus a candy bar–has a tremendous effect on the overall level of nutrition that you will receive from any particular carbohydrate food. I’m not saying that simple carbs aren’t generally bad for you–we should really all just stop drinking soda completely, I believe–but that there is more complexity to the nutrition of carbs than this post and the article linked to presents.

    Th mprtnt thng fr y t cnsdr s: s ths knd f snstnlst pstng dng gd, nd s t llstrtng hw scnc rlly wrks? t’s fn fr y t fnd spprt fr yr wn tng hbts nd bss bt fd n yr prvt lf, bt bfr y strt cnsdrng yrslf n thrty n ntrtn scnc, pls rcnsdr th ffct yr pstngs hv n ppl’s lrdy cnfsd ndrstndng bt hw scnc wrks nd wht prpr dtry hbts r. B rspnsbl.

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