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Weight Gain Changes the Brain’s Response to Food

Every time I come to Florida, I immediately start to crave Publix birthday cake. The yellow cake with buttercream frosting is pretty much my ultimate sweet tooth fix.  That first bite just makes me oh so happy you can probably see it all over my face. Unfortunately, not everyone continues to feel that same elation. Researchers tested the response overweight or obese individuals had when drinking a milkshake and it turns out they don’t get that same pleasure.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, they found that overweight and obese people showed less activity in the caudate nucleus of the brain (this is the region involved with reward) when drinking a milkshake than did normal-weight people.

Children at risk of obesity actually had an increased caudate response to milkshake consumption, compared with kids not considered at risk. This suggested that the caudate response decreases as a result of overeating through the lifespan.

Among other things, the brain’s caudate nucleus is involved with regulating impulsivity, which is related to self control and addictive behaviors.

This means that overeating may cause adaptations in the dopamine system, leading to further risk of overeating.

Researchers are not sure whether weight loss can return the brain to normal functioning, but plan to find out.

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