Have you seen an obese person eating and eating without getting satisfied, and you wonder if they are conscious of how big they are? A study conducted by a team of Doctors in the United States and the Netherlands has revealed that the lack of satisfaction for people living with obesity is no fault of theirs. The disease might have irreversibly stolen their sense of satisfaction.
The medical experts studied the region of the brain responsible for regulating the eating behaviour of humans for over 12 weeks, and there was a significant difference between lean, healthy adults and obese people.
“We found that humans with obesity have severely impaired functional and neurochemical responses to post-ingestive nutrients, with no signs of reversibility after 12 weeks of (successful) dietary weight loss,” the report, which was released Monday (June 12), stated. That means the brain does not release signals to the rest of the body of obese people that it is time to stop eating. Hence they continue eating, and the result is an oversized body.
But the situation was different for healthy, lean people. The study reveals that the region of the brain responsible for regulating eating behaviour was active and could easily send signals of satisfaction.
One could easily conclude that if obese people work on themselves and become lean, the brain region that sends signals of satisfaction could be reactivated. But unfortunately, the result of the finding reveals otherwise.
Losing weight is not the cure for obesity
For 12 weeks, the diets of several obese people were supervised so that they could lose significant weight. The purpose of this was to determine if such intervention could reactivate their sense of satisfaction. However, at the end of 12 weeks, the sample studied lost significant weight, but they still could not feel a sense of fullness when they were supposed to, and their brains were not sending the needed signals either. Hence the conclusion that the situation is irreversible.
“Most of these physiological responses to intragastric nutrients are impaired in humans with obesity, with no signs of reversibility after 12 weeks of dietary weight loss,” The report stated. “The lack of reversibility after significant weight loss suggests that the high rate of weight regain after successful weight loss is in part explained by ongoing resistance to post-ingestive nutrient signals.”
The researchers concluded that temporarily losing weight does not solve the problem of obesity. After weight loss, the lack of satisfaction in obese people will not let them stop eating to excess. In other words, the disease goes more than a big body. It is underlying.
The team of researchers believe that there is a need to conduct further studies about the disease. However, they noted that the “observations [of this study] provide insights into the physiology of human eating behaviour and the pathophysiology of obesity.”
The need for more research
While the findings of the research are a significant breakthrough for the researchers, they have cautioned against interpreting it wrongly as there is so much more that is still unknown.
According to CNN, Dr Mireille Serlie of Amsterdam University Medical Centers, who was part of the extensive research, said: “We don’t know when these profound changes in the brain happen during the course of weight gain. When does the brain start to slip and lose the sensing capacity?”
It will take more research to find out how much damage obesity does to the brain and if the types of food eaten contribute to the severity of the disease. There is also the need to investigate the genetic and environmental factors associated with obesity.
“Are there changes that occurred in people as they gained weight? Or are there things that they were eating as they were gaining weight, such as ultra-processed foods, that caused a change in the brain? All of these are possible, and we don’t really know which it is,” Dr Sadaf Farooqi, a professor of medicine at Cambridge, told CNN.
The need to show empathy for obese people
No matter how insignificant the research results are, there is a lesson in empathy from it. Obesity is a complex disease that takes more than eating less and exercising more to cure.
Victims of the disease can only do very little to help themselves because their brain is not sending the needed precaution. Dr Serlie condemns the stigmatisation of obese people while a search for unanswered questions about obesity continues.
“The belief that weight gain can be solved simply by ‘just eating less, exercising more, and if you don’t do that, it’s a lack of willpower’ is so simplistic and so untrue,” Serlie told CNN.
“I think it’s important for people who are struggling with obesity to know that a malfunctioning brain may be the reason they wrestle with food intake,” Serlie added. “And hopefully this information will increase empathy for that struggle.”