A amino acidic tale of sugary binge eating and fat anorexia
In their study, which was unfortunately conducted on rodents, not humans (apparently decapitation of human subjects for research purposes is prohibited in Pakistan ;-), Samia Moin and his (or her?) colleagues tried to assess how different dietary macronutrient compositions effect the ability to cope with and the brain response to stress. To this ends the scientists fed 48 rodents with diets that contained either 1/3 sugar (sugar diet), 1/3 beef protein (protein diet) or 1/3 fat (fat diet) in addition to the standard rodent chow (normal diet). Unfortunately, they did not provide the specific macronutrient composition of the diets, so that I had to calculate the latter on my own. The results are depicted in figure 1 and are based on the assumption that the Pakistani "standard rodent chow" is identical to the one animals in US labs are fed ;-)
|Figure 1: My calculation of the macronutrient composition of the experimental diets; the calculation is based on the "standard rodent diet" that is used in US labs, whether that was identical to the one the Pakistanis used, I cannot tell.|
|Figure 2: Effect of repeated stress (2h immobilization) on food intake in the different groups (data calculated based on Moin. 2011)|
The Pakistani perspective: "Carbohydrate help you cope with stress!"
From the perspective of the Pakistani scientists, this "restorative effect" of a high carbohydrate diet on stress-induced appetite may be a good thing, from the perspective of someone living in a society with an overabundance of both food and stress, it must however be consider a potential risk factor for obesity.
|Figure 3: Changes in serotonin (5-HT), its metabolite 5-HIAA and its precursors in response to dietary intervention; the "normal" diet serves as a reference (data calculated based on Moin. 2011)|
|Figure 4: Changes in serotonin (5-HT), its metabolite 5-HIAA and its precursors in response to stress in the different diet groups; data expressed relative to unstressed controls; only changes marked with an asterisk (*) are statistically significant, p < 0.05 (data calculated based on Moin. 2011)|
What implications do these 5HTs, 5-HIAAs and ABCDEFGs have?
From previous studies, we know for quite some time that high protein diets are associated with higher rates in stress-induced depression (Markus. 1998). Moreover a reduced 5-HIAA / 5-HT ratio in the brain has been identified as a characteristic feature of depression (Zangen. 1997). If we keep that in mind and take a final look at the data in figure 4 and figure 5, we would have to draw the following conclusions:
- a high sugar diet modulates the 5-HIAA / 5-HT in an "anti-depressive" way
- a high protein diet does not change the 5-HIAA / 5-HT ratio as long as there are no external stressors, when stress comes into play it is associated with a profound "pro-depressive" decrease in the 5-HIAA / 5-HT ratio
- a high fat diet induces a pro-depressive reduction in the 5-HIAA / 5-HT ratio in the absence of stress, but is associated with a less pronounced reduction in the 5-HIAA / 5-HT ratio in response to stress, when compared to a high protein diet