Why Is It So Hard to Maintain Weigh Loss?


Long-term weight loss maintenance is a major problem in obesity treatment. Weight loss programs participants usually lose 8 to 10 per cent of their weight during the first six months of treatment, but they put a minimum of one third of lost pounds back after one year. Despite intensive treatment, they continue to regain weight for the next several years, with most participants reverting to their starting point after five years.


Researchers at The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center used functional magnetic resource imaging, a non-invasive method that spots engaged brain regions in conscious patients, to scan brain activity of three groups: 18 participants with normal weight, 16 overweighed participants and 17 participants who lost a minimum of 30 pounds and maintained their weight loss for three years. Participants didn’t eat for four hours so that they would be hungry and then were shown pictures of food items: low-calorie (salads, fresh vegetables and fruit) and high calorie (hot dogs, French fries, ice cream, cake and cookies). Besides, the participants were shown pictures of non-edible objects but similar with food in visual complexity and color (rocks, flowers and trees). The MPT scan captured brain responses to these images.

They found that weight loss maintainers responded to the pictures differently. In particular, researchers observed strong signals from brain regions responsible for restriction, and greater attention to food allusions. Researchers believe these signals may ensure preventive or corrective behaviors, specifically in relation to eating, that promote weight loss maintenance. To find whether this reaction is inborn or can be developed, future research is needed.

Source of the image: sxc.hu/profile/lockstockb.