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Obesity counseling should focus on neurobehavioral processes, not personal choice, researchers say
Date:7/31/2011

(CHICAGO) Current approaches to dietary counseling for obesity are heavily rooted in the notion of personal choice and will power the ability to choose healthy foods and portion sizes consistent with weight loss while foregoing sweets and comfort foods.

According to preventive medicine and behavioral experts at Rush University Medical Center, research supports a new counseling approach that views obesity as a result of neurobehavioral processes - ways in which the brain controls eating behavior in response to cues in the environment.

The new, proposed neurobehavioral model is highlighted in an article in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

"Typically, overweight and obese patients receive education about dietary contributions to weight gain, and they are simply encouraged to fight the powerful urge to eat the delicious foods that are available almost everywhere in the environment, and instead, make dietary choices consistent with weight loss," said Brad Appelhans, PhD, clinical psychologist and obesity researcher in the Rush University Prevention Center and lead author of the article. "Yet, we know this approach rarely works. Even highly motivated and nutritionally informed patients struggle to refrain from highly palatable foods that are high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats."

The suggestion that individuals become or remain obese due to their unhealthy personal choices or a lack of willpower to make healthy choices is also stigmatizing to patients and unlikely to motivate them to lose weight.

The new model adopts a scientifically informed framework that clarifies how personal choice is affected by biological and environmental factors.

The three neurobehavioral processes consistently implicated in obesity and overeating are food reward, inhibitory control and time discounting.

  • Food Reward is largely mediated by the mesolimbic dopamine syst
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Contact: Deb Song
deb_song@rush.edu
312-942-0588
Rush University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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