How It Works

Binge-eating mice reveal behavioural clues to obesity

According to a recent study from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), mice fed on at high fat chocolate-based diet demonstrated abnormal feeding behaviours and eating patterns.

Obesity is a growing problem in many different countries. According to the World Health Organisation, in 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight, 650 million of those were obese.

Scientists investigated the eating behaviour of mice when offered a chocolate –based diet or chocolate snacks offered with regular lab chow. The team found that mice slowly showed signs of binge-eating and addictive behaviour. For example it was observed that mice would consume as much chocolate for just one hour, as they would over a whole day if it was continually available. Mice would also wait for chocolate, ignoring the their standard food. The team also found that animals on the chocolate diet were more likely to eat during the daytime, surprising, as mice are usually nocturnal and feed at night. They ate shorter more frequent ‘snacks’ rather than larger, longer-spaced meals.

“Obesity is not just a metabolic disease – it is a behavioural issue. People who are overweight or obese are usually told to eat less and move more, but this is too simplistic”, says Mara Dierssen, group leader of the Cellular and Systems Neurobiology laboratory at CRG.”We need to focus on preventing obesity, and this study shows us that understanding and modifying behaviour could be the key”, Dierssen adds.


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