Our thoughts may be making us vulnerable to weight gain says a new study.
Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) analysed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and cognitive test results of over 1200 people who were a part of the Human Connectome Project and concluded that obesity might be linked to the structure and performance of our brains.
The analysis showed that people with higher BMI (body mass index) exhibited ‘reduced cognitive flexibility, ability to delay gratification, visuospatial ability and verbal memory’.
The brain structure of people with higher BMI was also found to be different. Their left prefrontal cortex was found to be thicker and the right, thinner.
Individuals with higher BMI also had larger left amygdala in the brain which usually plays a role in how individuals respond to food and eating habits. The individuals also showed a decrease in parts of the brain which were commonly linked to ‘episodic memory and context mediation’.
This led the researchers to conclude that people who were likely to gain weight were more conscious to food cues and couldn’t resist over-eating or understand that it would lead to weight gain.
The researchers also studied many individuals who were related to each other (like siblings and twins) and concluded via multiple statistical ways that genetics also played a major role in obesity.
The lead author of the study, Uku Vainik, said:
"This research will be useful in developing interventions to help people with obesity. Modifying neurobehavioural factors with cognitive training, to improve people’s ability to resist food, for example, could hold promise. Interventions shouldn’t just focus on diet, but also acknowledge the neurobehavioural profile that obesity is genetically intertwined with. Such interventions might help people to stay lean despite their genetic signature."
Uku Vainik is a researcher at The Neuro and the Institute of Psychology at University of Tartu, Estonia.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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