Why do some people may have more trouble losing weight than others?
As more than one third of Americans are considered to be over-weight, obesity incidence seems to grow higher in western countries. High-calorie diets and unhealthy habits are known to cause gaining of dangerous extra pounds and further metabolic imbalances that lead to obesity.
But according to Australian Monash University and Spanish University of Granada researchers, obesity could also be “hard-wired” to the brain.
Study findings were presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology’s annual conference in Amsterdam.
81 (both obese and normal weight) study participants were real-time MRI tested for brain responses to pictures of food. Food cravings in obese people seems to activate different brain regions when compared to normal-weight individuals.
Previous studies have already suggested that the way obese people’s brain responds to food can be compared to drug or alcohol addiction brain responses. Food addiction can be very similar to other substance addictions.
Dorsal caudate and somatosensory cortex responses and high connectivity were recorded in obese people’s brain, during study research. These brain regions are proved to be associated with “reward behaviour”, habits and reaction to high-calorie food. Normal weight category responded differently when applied the same stimuli: ventral putamen and the orbitofrontal cortex were the brain areas that reacted to the pictures of food. These regions are linked to decision making processes.
“There is an ongoing controversy over whether obesity can be called a ‘food addiction,’ but in fact there is very little research which shows whether or not this might be true. The findings in our study support the idea that the reward processing following food stimuli in obesity is associated with neural changes similar to those found in substance addiction. This still needs to be viewed as an association between food craving behavior and brain changes, rather than one necessarily causing the other”, lead researcher Oren Contreras-Rodríguez declares.
Study findings could be applicable in brain scan use methods to diagnose people response to food and consequently brain stimulation treatments to fight obesity.