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Why Do Most Restrained Eaters Fail in Losing Weight?: Evidence from an fMRI Study

Authors Su Y, Bi T, Gong G, Jiang Q, Chen H

Received 23 August 2019

Accepted for publication 3 December 2019

Published 19 December 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 1127—1136


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman

Yanhua Su,1 Taiyong Bi,1 Gaolang Gong,2,3 Qiu Jiang,4,5 Hong Chen4,5

1Center for Mental Health Research in School of Management, Zunyi Medical University, Zunyi 563000, People’s Republic of China; 2State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, People’s Republic of China; 3Beijing Key Laboratory of Brain Imaging and Connectomics, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, People’s Republic of China; 4Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality (SWU), Ministry of Education, Chongqing 400715, People’s Republic of China; 5School of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, People’s Republic of China

Correspondence: Hong Chen
School of Psychology, Southwest University, Beibei, Chongqing 400715, People’s Republic of China
Qiu Jiang
Department of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, People’s Republic of China

Background: Restraint dieting is a key step in the avoidance of obesity and other eating problems, but why some restraint eaters (REs) succeed and some fail in dieting is unknown. The difference between successful REs (S-REs) and unsuccessful REs (US-REs) is still unknown. This is the first study to compare the fMRI reactivity among US-REs, S-REs and unrestrained eaters (UREs) in a food-related Go/NoGo paradigm.
Methods: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to examine the neural responses corresponding to the success of dieting in REs. Eighteen S-REs, 17 US-REs and 17 UREs were asked to perform a Go/No-Go task after being shown pictures of either high-caloric or low-caloric food.
Results: fMRI results revealed stronger activations for high-caloric food in areas associated with executive function and inhibition (i.e., middle frontal gyrus and cerebellum) among S-REs than among US-REs. In contrast, both US-REs and UREs showed stronger activations for low-caloric food in reward areas (i.e., orbitofrontal cortex (OFC)) than S-REs.
Conclusion: Our results provide evidence that food temptations may trigger processes of successful inhibition control in S-REs, whereas US-REs may fail in resisting the attraction to high-caloric food, thereby showing a high probability of overeating.

Keywords: successful and unsuccessful restrained eaters, measurement of restrained eating, inhibition control, fMRI

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