Personalized anti-obesity pills for him and her could be on the horizon, study finds
By Luke Andrews Health Reporter for Dailymail.Com and Xantha Leatham Assistant Science Editor for The Daily Mail
Updated: 15:53 April 06, 2023
Scientists have discovered sex-specific brain signals that fuel obesity — and it could open the door to diet pills for him and her.
They found that obese women are more motivated by food comfort and food cravings than obese men, who are more likely to be binge eaters who eat a lot of calories in one sitting.
Researchers in California asked 183 participants, who had varying levels of BMI, to complete questionnaires and undergo a series of brain MRIs.
They found changes in parts of the brain network connectivity of people who had higher BMIs in both sexes.
However, in women, they identified certain regions and networks linked to early trauma – in line with previous studies that found obese women may have greater anxiety than obese men.
Women may be more sensitive to the sight, smell and taste of ultra-processed foods, the study found, with an increased risk of developing food cravings and addiction.
The results confirm previous research, conducted by the same team, which found that emotional eating and compulsive eating played a major role in obesity in women, but men’s eating behavior tended to be affected. by a greater awareness of intestinal sensations.
Around four in 10 adults are obese in the US and almost a quarter are overweight in the UK, with men slightly more likely to be overweight.
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Writing in the journal Brain Communications, the team said: ‘To our knowledge, this is one of the few studies demonstrating an association between sex differences in brain signatures in people with a high BMI.
“Alterations in these networks suggest that, compared to men, women with a high BMI are more likely to develop hypersensitivity and dominance to highly appetizing foods, and increased alterations in ingestive behaviors such as food cravings and food addiction. .
“Our results highlight the importance of personalized obesity treatments that take into account the sex of the individual concerned.”
The latest study, conducted by scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), recruited 42 men and 62 women who were a healthy weight and 23 men and 55 women who were overweight or obese. All were between the ages of 18 and 55.
Each was asked about their behavior and mental health, including childhood trauma, food addiction and any episodes of anxiety or depression.
They then also underwent three MRI scans to assess their brain structure, function and connectivity.
For obese women, the results showed alterations in areas related to early trauma – consistent with previous studies that found obese women may have greater anxiety than obese men.
Scientists have also discovered that these women may be more sensitive to the sight, smell and taste of ultra-processed foods.
This could lead to overeating and put them at a higher risk of cravings, they warned.
Learning to target the different areas of the brain responsible for food cravings in men and women could lead to sex-specific drugs, the researchers said.
Are you one of the lucky few who are “healthy” and obese?
According to research, an increasing number of Americans are medically obese but physically healthy.
The phenomenon of “healthy fats” is causing doctors to rethink their view of weight as an overall barometer of health.
In the study published this week, Chinese researchers found that 10% of the obese American population was “healthy” in 2002, meaning they did not suffer from diseases commonly associated with excess fat such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Today, 15% of obese people are healthy, according to the study.
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