Beyond Willpower: The Mysterious Link Between Obesity and impaired brain responses to Nutrients

By: | June 20th, 2023

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

According to a recent study, obesity may impair the brain’s ability to perceive the feeling of fullness and satisfaction following the consumption of fats and sugars.

This communication gap between the brain and the gut, as suggested by researchers at Yale School of Medicine, can lead to a vicious cycle of overeating.

These differences in brain activity explain why it’s difficult for some to lose weight and maintain weight loss.

The study reveals that even after medically obese individuals lose a significant amount of weight, the brain changes associated with obesity can persist. 

The World Health Organization reports that over 4 million people worldwide die each year due to being overweight. However, despite this alarming statistic, the role of nutrient signaling in humans remains poorly understood.

For the study, researchers conducted experiments on 28 lean individuals and 30 individuals with obesity. The participants were given glucose or fat directly into their stomachs, and their brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The results showed that lean participants exhibited reduced brain activity in multiple regions after receiving glucose or fat, while participants with obesity showed no changes in brain activity.

Researchers found this surprising since they expected different responses between lean people and people with obesity, but didn’t expect this lack of changes in brain activity among individuals with obesity.

These findings shed light on why many people who lose weight often end up regaining it.

Participants with obesity then underwent a 12-week dietary weight-loss program and then re-imaged. Surprisingly, researchers found weight loss did nothing to change the brain’s response to nutrient infusion. None of the previously observed diminished responses were observed to have improved.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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