According to preventive medicine and behavioral experts at Rush University Medical Center, research supports a new counseling approach that views obesity as a result of neurobehavioral processes - ways in which the brain controls eating behavior in response to cues in the environment.
The new, proposed neurobehavioral model is highlighted in an article in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
"Typically, overweight and obese patients receive education about dietary contributions to weight gain, and they are simply encouraged to fight the powerful urge to eat the delicious foods that are available almost everywhere in the environment, and instead, make dietary choices consistent with weight loss," said Brad Appelhans, PhD, clinical psychologist and obesity researcher in the Rush University Prevention Center and lead author of the article. "Yet, we know this approach rarely works. Even highly motivated and nutritionally informed patients struggle to refrain from highly palatable foods that are high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats."
The suggestion that individuals become or remain obese due to their unhealthy personal choices or a lack of willpower to make healthy choices is also stigmatizing to patients and unlikely to motivate them to lose weight.
The new model adopts a scientifically informed framework that clarifies how personal choice is affected by biological and environmental factors.
The three neurobehavioral processes consistently implicated in obesity and overeating are food reward, inhibitory control and time discounting.
Food Reward – is largely mediated by the mesolimbic dopamine system, a neural pathway in the brain also known as the reward circuit. Food reward includes both the experience of pleasure one receives from eating and the motivational drive to obtain and consume highly palatable foods. Those with greater sensitivity to reward have stronger food cravings for sweet and fatty foods. This biologically-based sensitivity, coupled with easy access to delicious snacks and fast food outlets, makes one highly vulnerable to overeating and weight gain.
Inhibitory Control – Beyond the intensity of food cravings is the ability to suppress urges to eat high-calorie foods. Controlling behavior despite a strong motivation to eat is largely mediated by the brain's prefrontal cortex, which is considered critical for self-control, planning and goal-directed behavior. The dorsolateral region of the prefrontal cortex has been implicated in the decision to engage inhibitory processes for the purpose of self-regulation, and this brain area becomes activated when dieters choose healthy food options over tastier options.
Time Discounting – A third factor that likely contributes to the low success rates of dietary interventions for obesity is the human tendency to devalue delayed rewards.
"Most of us would rather receive $200 today rather than $300 a year from now," said Appelhans.
Similarly, the immediate pleasure from eating has a greater effect on decision making than the more delayed health benefits of weight loss.
The link between time discounting and body weight is reflected neuroanatomically because it is governed by the same brain regions associated with food reward and inhibitory control – the mesolimbic dopamine system and the prefrontal cortex.
"Obesity is heavily influenced by genetic vulnerabilities and a toxic food environment," said Appelhans. "However, counselors can help patients control their weight through strategies focused on the interaction between the brain and the environment, rather than the traditional approach of encouraging patients to simply ignore or fight food cravings and eat fewer calories than they expend."
A few strategies recommended by the researchers include:
In order to combat food reward, patients can remove high fat foods they crave from personal environments such as the home and workplace to prevent the activation of the reward circuitry.
Limit the impact of reward on food choice by shopping with a grocery list or using online grocers.
Practice stress management techniques since stress promotes overeating and obesity by enhancing food reward processing.
Avoid situations such as buffets and restaurants that challenge inhibitory control.
Focus on achieving short-term behavioral goals, such as cooking a healthy dinner on three nights of the week rather than focusing on long-term weight loss goals.
Dr. Appelhans is affiliated with the Rush University Prevention Center, which specializes in the behavioral, medical, and nutritional management of obesity and other risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.
Rush is a not-for-profit academic medical center comprising Rush University Medical Center, Rush University, Rush Oak Park Hospital and Rush Health. Rush is currently constructing a 14-floor, 806,000-square-foot hospital building near the corner of Ashland Avenue and the Eisenhower Expressway. The new hospital, scheduled to open in 2012, is the centerpiece of a ten-year campus redevelopment plan called the Rush Transformation, which also includes completion of a new orthopedics building, a new parking garage and central power plant, renovations of selected existing buildings and demolition of obsolete buildings. The new hospital is designed and built to conserve energy and water, reduce waste and use sustainable building materials. Rush is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It will be the first full-service, "green" hospital in Chicago.
Rush's mission is to provide the best possible care for its patients. Educating tomorrow's health care professional, researching new and more advanced treatment options, transforming its facilities and investing in new technologies—all are undertaken with the drive to improve patient care now, and for the future.
Deb Song | EurekAlert!
Nanoparticles as a Solution against Antibiotic Resistance?
15.12.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests
14.12.2017 | Aalto University
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences
15.12.2017 | Life Sciences