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Fatty Foods Trigger Meaningful Memories

Reported April 30, 2009

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- If you can fondly remember eating a decadent meal or rich dessert, evolution may be to blame.

California researchers have discovered that eating fat-rich foods triggers the formation of meaningful, long-term memories of that activity. Our current diets are now rich in fats, but that wasn't the case for early humans. In fact, fat-rich foods in nature are quite rare, the researchers said.

"Remembering the location and context of a fatty meal was probably an important survival mechanism for early humans," Daniele Piomelli, the Louise Turner Arnold Chair in Neurosciences at the University of California Irvine, was quoted as saying. "It makes sense that mammals have this capability."



Today, however, that memory skill may not be so beneficial. Piomelli's earlier studies have shown that oleic acids from fats are transformed into a compound called oleoylethanolamide (OEA) in the upper region of the small intestines. OEA sends hunger-curbing messages to the brain to increase feelings of fullness, but his new study found it may also engender long-term cravings for fatty foods that, when eaten in excess, can cause obesity.

In elevated levels, OEA can reduce appetite, produce weight loss and lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This finding could lead to new approaches for treating obesity and other eating disorders, researchers said.

SOURCE: Published online on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' Web site