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New Obesity Treatment: Brain Stimulation May Reduce Food Cravings
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New Obesity Treatment: Brain Stimulation May Reduce Food Cravings

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Highlights:
  • Obesity treatment can be effective by stimulating the brain to alter its intrinsic reward system which may reduce food cravings
  • Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS) is a medical treatment that uses magnetic energy to stimulate neurons in specific areas of the brain can be a good option to reduce drug and food cravings
  • dTMS can be much safer and cost-effective option to treat obesity compared to drugs or surgery

Obesity treatment becomes effective by stimulating the brain to alter its intrinsic reward system, reports a new study. The findings of the study are presented in Barcelona at the European Society of Endocrinology annual meeting, ECE 2018.

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The new technique developed has provided positive results after just a single treatment session. This becomes a safer option to
  • treat obesity
  • avoid invasive surgery
  • reduce drug side effects
Obesity is a condition in which a person has excess of body fat that could impair health.
Obesity is a global epidemic, where
  • Nearly 650 million adults and 340 million children and adolescents are considered obese
  • Globally, an estimated 2.8 million deaths per year occur due to obesity
It has been stated that, in some obesity cases, the reward system in the brain may be altered, causing a more significant reward response to food than in normal weight individuals. This can make patients more susceptible to craving and can lead to weight gain. This dysfunction in the reward system can also be observed in cases of addiction to substances such as drugs or alcohol, or behaviors such as gambling.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS)

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS) is a medical treatment that uses magnetic energy to stimulate neurons in specific areas of the brain. It is mainly used to treat depression and addictive behaviors.
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In previous studies, it is suggested that dTMS could be an excellent option to reduce drug and food cravings.

Details of the Study

In this study, Professor Livio Luzi and colleagues, from the Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico Policlinico San Donato, Italy, examined the effects of dTMS on appetite and satiety (feeling of fullness) in obese people.

The study mainly examined the impact of a single 30-minute session of dTMS, at a high or low frequency, on blood markers potentially related with the food reward in a group of 40 obese patients.

Findings of the Study

The research team found that high-frequency dTMS significantly increased blood levels of beta-endorphins (neurotransmitters involved in producing heightened feelings of reward after food ingestion) compared to low-frequency dTMS or controls.

The study is first of its kind which suggested an interpretation of how dTMS could alter food cravings in obese subjects, added Professor Luzi.

"We also found that some blood markers potentially associated with food reward, for example, glucose, vary according to gender, suggesting male/female differences in how vulnerable patients are to food cravings, and their ability to lose weight," said Professor Luzi.

Limitation of the Study

The study only measured changes in blood markers to identify the effects of dTMS which becomes the main limitation of the study.

Further Research Suggestions

The next goal for the research team will include using brain imaging studies to instantly examine how high-frequency dTMS alters the structure and function of the obese brain, both short and long-term, and extending the treatment to a broader group of obese patients.

"Given the distressing effects of obesity in patients and the socioeconomic burden of the condition, it is increasingly urgent to identify new strategies to counteract the current obesity trends. dTMS could present a much safer and cheaper alternative to treat obesity compared to drugs or surgery," said Professor Luzi.

Source: Medindia

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