Why You May Need to Work Harder to Keep the Weight Off

By: Bel Marra Health | Diets | Friday, September 27, 2013 - 11:40 AM

153048232Obesity has become one of the worst problems in America today, with thousands of people suffering from diabetes, heart conditions, joint problems, and other health disorders that stem from being overweight. Many make an effort to lose weight, but aren’t able to maintain this healthy lifestyle. What’s more, a recent study has shown that obesity may make it more difficult for these individuals to keep off the weight, even after they’ve lost weight.

The study – conducted by Ph.D. student, Stephen Kentish, of the University of Adelaide – investigated how a high fat diet, leading to obesity, can impact the stomach, particularly its ability to send signals to the brain that is full and satiated. The study looked into whether or not the stomach was able to return to regular function even after the excess weight was lost, and the results are a bit terrifying for the obese population of the world.

The stomach is filled with nerve endings, which signal to the brain when it is full and satisfied with the meal. The brain responds by producing the hormone leptin, which sends signals back to the stomach that the body is satiated. This decreases the appetite, stopping you from being hungry. It takes time for the brain to send back the signal and the leptin to decrease your appetite, which is why it is recommended for anyone trying to lose weight to eat more slowly.

However, the nerve endings in the stomach responsible for sending signals of satiety to the brain become desensitized after long-term intake of fatty foods. A high fat diet does to these stomach nerve endings what diabetes, for example, does to insulin receptors: it makes it harder for the body to pick up on the hormone signals. This means that more leptin is required to alert the body to the fact that the stomach is full, which can lead to an increase in appetite and consequent overeating. Those that have struggled with obesity and have been on a high fat diet for extended periods of time tend to eat more as their bodies tell them that they need more food to feel satiated.

This desensitization continues even after the excess weight has been lost, and the nerve endings in the stomach never return to normal. This means that even though there is no more fat, the stomach is still sending out signals that more food needs to be consumed in order to be satiated. This can lead to overconsumption of calories – the primary factor in weight gain. As a result of the desensitization, only 5 percent of dieters can keep the weight loss consistent in the long-term, and why the majority of once-obese people often regain a lot of the weight that they have lost.

It is important for more research to be done on how to restore the nerve function in the stomach to normal, thus helping to reduce the appetite. Unfortunately, as of right now, there is no way to “reset” the stomach to its pre-high fat diet settings. It is recommended to continue to eat more slowly, as well as portioning foods to avoid overeating. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating habits are essential to living a long life in good health. Speak to a nutritionist or health care practitioner to help you keep the weight off and stay healthy, particularly for those who have struggled to lose weight or struggled with obesity.

Related Reading: Can intermittent fasting help you lose weight?

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