Millions of women and men throughout the world struggle to develop and maintain a healthy relationship with the food they eat. For those who are considered obese, the struggle could be one originating much deeper than merely the food eaten.
A new report shows that obese and non-obese women respond to high-energy, high-density snacks in very different ways. Background information taken from this study demonstrates that only 10 percent of people who lose weight through diet and exercise are able to keep the weight off for five years.
The one reason for such a high failure rate is the fact that people feel deprived of their favorite foods and end up compensating for their period of abstinence. The study found that food reinforcement decreased in non-obese women who were asked to eat their favorite snack for days at a time.
Researchers also found obese women were much more likely to work for their food, especially 300 calorie portions. As the study continued, these women were willing to work harder for their food, while non-obese women found no interest in the food or working for it after a few days. In some cases, the obese women reported wanting the food even if they didn’t like it.
The pattern identified in this study is very similar to behaviors seen in drug addicts. “We’re exploring this idea of sensitization, which happens with drug use,” said Jennifer Temple, lead author of the study. “Response to a drug will actually decrease over repeated use.
“I stop short of calling overeating an addiction,” she added. “I don’t think it has all of the same properties, but I think we can learn something about overeating behavior from the drug world. We’re applying the same experimental paradigms to food and trying to see if obese people might be more susceptible to having an increased response to repeated food administration.”