Published on 1st January 2017


New research published in the journal Nature Communications might help explain why binge drinking can sometimes lead to an eating binge – and it’s not simply a matter of broken willpower.

Scientists from the Francis Crick Institute in London and University College London found that alcohol activated specific hunger-promoting brain cells in mice called AgRP (agouti-related protein) neurons, prompting the mice to eat more food even though they weren’t really hungry.1

In their first experiment, the researchers injected alcohol into the abdomens of male and female mice once a day for three days, mimicking an “alcohol weekend” (the equivalent of 18 units per day for humans – roughly six pints of strong larger or ale, or five to six large glasses of wine).

After confirming that alcohol significantly and reversibly increased food intake in both male and female mice, the team then examined the tissue from mice brains to see if ArGP cells were responsible for these effects. They found that alcohol directly activated AgRP neurons in the brain, and the cells returned to normal once the alcohol was removed. Alcohol did not have the same effect on food intake when the Agrp cells were suppressed, suggesting that the alcohol-associated activity of AgRP neurons is critical to alcohol-induced overeating.

These results may offer some clues as to how alcohol can prompt the midnight munchies after a drinking session, however, it is important to remember that the research was conducted in an animal model – meaning the findings don’t necessarily translate to humans.


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  1. Cains S et al. (2017). Agrp neuron activity is required for alcohol-induced overeating. Nature Communications. 8:7pp. DOI: 10.1038.