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Does Brain Structure Influence Diet Success?


Even though more people have begun dieting over the last few decades, problems with obesity have continued to grow as well. The struggle to lose weight and keep it off is not uncommon, but a new study has suggested that this struggle is a result of an issue with the brain.

The Issue of Obesity

Obesity is a problem that many people struggle with throughout the world, but it’s an especially serious problem in the United States, where more than a third of adults are considered obese. Obesity presents a huge health risk for those affected by it. Obesity increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and even certain types of cancer.

In addition to posing numerous health risks, obesity poses a financial problem as well – the yearly medical costs for individuals who were obese in 2008 was on average $1,429 higher than those who were not obese.

The Influence of the Brain on Diet Success

The medical journal Cognitive Neuroscience recently published a study that suggested that the ability for a person to self-regulate their body weight may come down to their brain structure.

Researchers discovered that chronic dieters tend to show extreme reactions to food cues in the executive control and reward areas of their brains. The study focused on a group of subjects consisting of 36 female chronic dieters with a BMI (body mass index) of 23.9 and 29.6 percent mean body fat.

The study involved having the subjects make basic judgements on images in order to turn their attention from the actual task at hand. These tasks were food cue reactivity tasks. The purpose of this test was to identify the executive control and reward areas in their brain through the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Researchers discovered that participants with lower body fat percentages had larger white matter integrity in between their brain’s executive control and reward areas. However, researchers aren’t certain if this was a result of repeated dieting.

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