Friday, October 17, 2008

Women eat more food because of chemical imbalance, say scientists

Fat people may not be entirely to blame for overeating, according to a study.

Scientists have discovered that some obese women have a chemical imbalance in their brain which means they get less satisfaction from a tasty treat or filling meal.

Because their brains find food less rewarding, they eat too much to compensate, researchers say.

The findings, based on a year-long study of women, helps explain why some are more tempted than others by snacks and huge portions.

However, nutrition experts point out that the biggest cause of obesity remains lack of exercise and too much food.

The study, published today in the journal Science, looked at the way the brains of 43 young women responded to a chocolate milkshake.

They were interested in the flow of dopamine – the 'reward' chemical messenger which floods the brain during pleasurable activities such as eating and drinking.

The greater the rush of dopamine in the brain, the more rewarded people feel.

The researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, took scans showing the flow of blood in the dorsal striatum part of the brain which deals with reward and pleasure.

They then tracked changes in the women's weight over the following year. Women whose brains responded the least to drinking the milkshake – and who got less pleasure from the treat – were most likely to gain weight, they found.

The women were also tested for a genetic variation which is linked to a lower number of dopamine receptors – parts of the brain which handle the chemical messenger.

Again, those with fewer receptors for dopamine were more likely to put on weight.
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