One common complaint of people who strictly follow weight-loss diets is that the weight comes back when they stop dieting. Many of us can personally attest that caloric deprivation weight loss diets typically do not produce lasting weight loss. Oregon Research Institute (ORI) senior scientist Eric Stice, Ph.D., and colleagues provide results in a recent issue of NeuroImage that further our understanding of how and why most weight loss diets fail and provide a more comprehensive description of the impact of caloric restriction.
Results suggest that restricting food intake increases the reward value of food, particularly high-calorie, appetizing food (chocolate milkshakes), and that the more successful people are at caloric-restriction dieting, the greater difficulty they will face in maintaining the restriction. Additionally, abstaining from food intake for longer durations of time also increases the reward value of food, which may lead to poor food choices when the individual eventually does eat. Results imply that dieting characterized by meal skipping and fasting would be less successful than weight loss efforts characterized by intake of low energy dense healthy foods.
"These results are unique," said Stice "in that these data are the first to suggest that elective caloric restriction increases the degree to which brain regions implicated in reward valuation and attention are activated by exposure to palatable foods."
"The implications of this imaging study are crystal clear; if people want to lose excess weight, it would be more effective to consume healthy, low-fat/low-sugar foods during regular meals, rather than go for long periods of time without any caloric intake" says Dr. Stice.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Stice has been studying eating disorders and obesity for 20 years. He has conducted this line of research at Stanford University and the University of Texas, and now continues at the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene, Oregon. This line of research has produced several prevention programs that effectively reduce risk for onset of eating disorders and obesity.