Why drinking too much leads to eating too much

Alcohol makes our brain think we need more food, when we don't (Getty)
Alcohol makes our brain think we need more food, when we don't (Getty)

For the first time, scientists have figured out why boozing up leads to chowing down.

It turns out alcohol switches on the same neurons of the brain which make us hungry.

The link between alcohol consumption and overeating has long baffled researchers.

"Alcohol is a calorie-dense nutrient, and calorie intake usually suppresses brain appetite signals," the study, published in Nature Communications, begins.

"Popular explanations for alcohol-induced overeating include an alcohol-induced loss of self-control, leading to a disregard for societal constraints on eating."

But it turns out it's not because we don't care what other people think - our brain literally thinks we need more food.

Researchers in the UK put mice on an "alcoholic weekend" - what you or I might call a "bender" - where they were subjected to the equivalent of 14 standard drinks for three days in a row. For a human, that would be about two bottles of wine a day over a long weekend.

They found not only did the drunk mice eat a lot more, neurons in the brain which triggered their hunger were activated in the hours after consuming alcohol, only returning to normal once they switched to a non-alcoholic diet.

In addition, manually switching off the neurons "eliminated alcohol-induced overeating".

And by doing the study on mice, they believe they've proved the same goes for humans, "irrespective of aesthetic beliefs and social conditioning".

"Due to the rising incidence of obesity… the link between alcohol intake and overeating is becoming a recognized clinical concern," the researchers write.