Science Shows Yo-Yo Dieters Cannot Win

A study published in the international Journal of Obesity shows that there may be a physiological reason why diets could be a poor bet, especially for obese people. Researchers discovered that the way the stomach detects and tells our brains how full we are becomes damaged in obese people, but the mechanism does not return to normal once those people lose weight. It is believed this could be a key reason why most people who lose weight on a diet eventually backslide.

A PhD student investigated the impact of a high-fat diet on the gut’s ability to signal fullness, and whether those changes revert to normal upon weight loss. Results show that the nerves in the stomach that signal fullness to the brain appear to become desensitized after long-term consumption of a high-fat diet.

The stomach’s nerves response does not return to normal upon return to a normal diet. This means you would need to eat more food before you felt the same degree of fullness as a healthy individual. A hormone in the body, leptin, knows to regulate food intake and can also change the sensitivity of the nerves in the stomach that signal fullness. In normal conditions, leptin acts to stop food intake. However, in the stomach in high-fat diet induced obesity, leptin further desensitizes the nerves that detect fullness. These two mechanisms combined mean that obese people need to eat more to feel full, which in turn continues their cycle of obesity.

Researchers are not yet sure whether this effect is permanent. What is known is that only about 5% of people on diets are able to maintain their weight loss, and that most people who have been on a diet put all of that weight back on within tow years. More research is needed to determine how long the effect lasts, and whether there is any way chemical or otherwise to trick the stomach into resetting itself to normal.

Resource: IDEA Fitness Journal

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