Weight loss — getting the fix

The solution to weight loss, in addition to using effective weight loss pills like Phentermine or Phentramin-D, might lie in how the brains of fat-prone people work.

Cornell University scientists have discovered that the children involved in the famous “marshmallow” studies in the 60s and 70s remained constant in their either being gratification delayers or instant-gratification seekers, even in middle age (40s).

Now what does this study have to do with weight loss, you ask? Well, Oregon Research Institute scientists conducted a different study involving, not marshmallows, but milkshakes this time. And the people involved weren’t children but women. The objective of the study was to find out whether those who didn’t get stimulated much from the milkshakes (as seen through brain imaging) would gain weight differently from those who did.

One year later, the group whose brains didn’t respond much to the milkshakes tended to have gained more weight.

The connection is that both studies involved brain imaging. And the area of the brain that coincided both for seekers of instant gratification in the Cornell study and the blunt responders to milkshakes in the Oregon study is what is called the striatum.

This part of the brain determines how one makes decisions towards emotional or pleasurable things.

In the Cornell study, the ventral part of the striatum (linked with emotions and motivation) was more activated in instant gratification seekers when shown emotional pictures. In the Oregon study, the dorsal striatum (involved in decision-making about rewards) was less activated by milkshakes for those who tended to gain weight. What if one is both a gratification seeker and also experiences less pleasure when given stimuli?

Both groups of researchers concluded their findings could be useful for treating addictions or obesity. The implication is that people who tend to gain weight easily give in to the temptation offered by food, but need more (and more) of it to feel they’ve had enough.

Since weight loss pills Phentermine or Phentramin-D only suppress appetite so those who take them won’t seek food, another kind of drug, for long-term use this time, is needed so that even if people eat the food they crave, they would easily be satiated by enough amounts that won’t make them fat.

We are still waiting for that drug to be available. Phentermine and Phentramin-D are for short term use only and those who take them still need to eat healthy food, exercise, and enough sleep. The only long term fix we have for now is discipline.

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