Obesity 'down to brain processes, not lifestyle choice'

1 August 2011

A new methodological approach to viewing and treating obesity is being proposed by US scientists, with the emphasis on neurobehavioral rather than personal choice.

In an article for the latest Journal of the American Dietetic Association, medical scientists claimed it could be more productive to view obesity as a symptom of adverse biological and environmental factors, as opposed to poor dietary choice.

Referencing the fact that despite constant education and encouragement, both obese and healthier people continue to make poor dietary choices, Dr Brad Appelhans, clinical psychologist and obesity researcher at the Rush University Prevention Center and lead author of the study, concluded that "this approach rarely works".

"Obesity is heavily influenced by genetic vulnerabilities and a toxic food environment," added Dr Appelhans.

Implications of the research centre on the notion that obese people are therefore stigmatised for having a perceived lack of willpower and for making poor choices, which in turn increases their chances of putting on weight and even needing weight loss surgery.

Meanwhile, research studies on bariatric surgery suggest that Roux-en-Y gastric band procedures can have a positive effect in changing food preferences for the better among patients.

Posted by Philip Briggs


1 Appelhans, Bradley M., et al. "Time to Abandon the Notion of Personal Choice in Dietary Counseling for Obesity?" Journal of the American Dietetic Association. August 2011.

2 le Roux, C.W., et al. ‘Gastric bypass reduces fat intake and preference.’ American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology. Wednesday July 27th 2011.

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