(NewsCore) - Dieting causes brain cells to start eating bits of themselves, scientists claimed Wednesday.

Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York found that like other parts of the body, hunger-inducing neurons in the brain begin to consume themselves in periods of starvation.

The process, known as autophagy, causes the body to respond by generating fatty acids that feed the hunger signals in the brain and increase the body's desire to eat.

The findings could advance weight-loss treatments, the researchers wrote in the journal Cell Metabolism.

In tests on mice the researchers were able to block the process, leading the rodents to become lighter and less hungry after fasting.

Study leader Dr. Rajat Singh, said, "A pathway that is really important for every cell to turn over components in a kind of housekeeping process is also required to regulate appetite."

He added that drugs aimed at intercepting the pathway might "make you less hungry and burn more fat."

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