In a new review, researchers suggest a reciprocal relationship between obesity and weak self-control.
They suggest obesity reduces self-control and reduced self-control could lead to obesity. This is largely due to activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain.
Previous studies have shown that in obese people, there is dysfunction in the brain’s reward pathways.
The individual differences in the prefrontal cortex may be of equal importance.
A prefrontal activity could predict a person’s susceptibility to desiring high-calorie food.
When prefrontal activity is weak, the person may eat more food, especially with the presence of food ads. This could change brain function and cause overheating in the future.
They found if people have lower prefrontal activity, it can predispose them to overeat, which in turn can lead to weight gain and obesity.
The researchers explain why exercise could help reduce appetite. Exercise has been linked to stronger activity in prefrontal cortex, and this lets people ignore food cravings better.
Practicing mindfulness or meditation has the same effect. It is an effective way to improve prefrontal cortex activity.
The authors suggest that it is important to make good eating habits during childhood and adolescent years.
It can help set healthy eating up for life and ensure the prefrontal cortex functions correctly.
When adolescents eat too many unnecessary calories from junk foods, bad eating habits could last into adulthood.
For people who are overweight or obese, doing exercise or meditation can help improve their prefrontal activity and reduce overeating.
In the future, more work is needed to find how to control prefrontal activity to make better dietary choices. It would be an effective way to treat obesity.
The lead author of the study is Cassandra Lowe, a BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Fellow at the Western University. Amy Reichelt is a co-author.
The study is published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
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Further reading: Trends in Cognitive Sciences.