As we already know, alcohol makes the brain behave in strange ways. This includes refusing to admit you actually consumed any alcohol even the first place, even if just last night you were very moved by a man busking in a bunny suit, despite the fact he was literally only playing the opening riff from "Smoke on the Water," which basically everyone on the planet can play.
Yes, alcohol makes you engage in behaviours you might otherwise avoid. And now it seems scientists have worked out another of them: why you feel compelled to eat that 4AM kebab.
On Tuesday, new research published in the journal Nature Communications revealed the reason we get hungry when pissed has very little to do with our stomachs, and much more to do with our minds. More specifically, AgRP neurons.
AgRP neurons are involved in the production of agouti-related peptides, which are the brain chemicals that make us hungry. It's not just us; these same same neurons play an important role in stimulating appetite for animals, from mice to pandas.
Unfortunately, if the AgRP neurons are activated, you'll want to eat—even if you aren't really hungry. A 2011 study published in Nature Neuroscience found that activating the neurons in mice "evoked voracious feeding within minutes," despite the fact they were already full. Powerful stuff. Voracious, even.
The new study, led by London's Francis Crick Institute, found that these potentially deceptive AgRP neurons can be triggered by alcohol, which goes a long way to explain why drinking leads to ordering a Filet-O-Fish, mostly because you felt bad for it.
Drunk overeating has actually troubled scientists for a while now, because it doesn't really make any sense. Alcohol is quite rich in calories, which typically "suppresses brain appetite signals," as the report puts it. How could something that fills us up make us feel so hungry? Before this study was published, a lot of people just chalked it up to lowered inhibitions. We eat because we're too drunk to care.
But when researchers in this study sent some mice on a light bender, equivalent to a person drinking a bottle-and-a-half of wine each night, their AgRP neurons fired up, and they started to gorge.
The results point to one thing: it's quite likely that when human beings consume alcohol, it activates our AgRP neurons too, and we feel compelled to eat a filthy, dirty kebab. Turns out It's Not Really Your Fault After All.
Poor alcohol hasn't enjoyed much good press lately. In 2009, a study found that about 4,500 Swedes died from alcohol-related disease or accidents the year prior.
So now, even if you gloss over the pesky disease situation, the calories in alcohol—and there are plenty—aren't the only thing making you fat. It's also that kebab that you'll feel compelled to pile over the top.