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Weight Gain Seems to Change the Brain's Response to Food
Date:12/10/2010

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Most people probably find drinking a milkshake a pleasurable experience, sometimes highly so. But apparently that's less apt to be the case among those who are overweight or obese.

Overeating, it seems, dims the neurological response to the consumption of yummy foods such as milkshakes, a new study suggests. That response is generated in the caudate nucleus of the brain, a region involved with reward.

Researchers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) found that that overweight and obese people showed less activity in this brain region when drinking a milkshake than did normal-weight people.

"The higher your BMI [body mass index], the lower your caudate response when you eat a milkshake," said study lead author Dana Small, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale and an associate fellow at the university's John B. Pierce Laboratory.

The effect was especially strong in adults who had a particular variant of the taqIA A1 gene, which has been linked to a heightened risk of obesity. In them, Small said, the decreased brain response to the milkshake was very pronounced. About a third of Americans have the variant.

The findings were to have been presented earlier this week at an American College of Neuropsychopharmacology meeting in Miami.

Just what this says about why people overeat or why dieters say it's so hard to ignore highly rewarding foods is not entirely clear. But the researchers have some theories.

When asked how pleasurable they found the milkshake, overweight and obese participants in the study responded in ways that did not differ much from those of normal-weight participants, suggesting that the explanation is not that obese people don't enjoy milkshakes any more or less.

And when they did brain scans in children at risk for obesity because both parents were obese, the re
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