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Brain, cortisol, and weight loss connections

Weight-management studies led by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are helping determine why some dieters lose more weight than others, and are more successful in keeping it off.

WASHINGTON.-- Given America's obesity epidemic, weight-management research is timely and relevant. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 35 percent of adults and 18 percent of kids and adolescents age 6 through 19 are overweight or obese. Both conditions are associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic disorders.

In one investigation, 29 obese but otherwise healthy women age 20 to 45 participated in a 12-week weight-loss regimen. The researchers assessed several factors related to weight management, including the volunteers' patterns of decision making, and changes in their levels of cortisol, a stress-associated hormone.

The amount of weight that volunteers lost varied greatly, from zero to 27 pounds, despite the fact that all were essentially eating the same foods in the calorie-controlled meals provided to them at the nutrition center. Keim noted that the finding underscores the need for weight-management plans that are even more individualized than those available today.

The scientists also found that dieters who lost the most weight were those who scored the highest on the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), a standard test that helps assess, for example, decision making and the ability to resist the temptation of short-term, immediate rewards in favor of longer-term benefits. (SOURCE: ARS/USDA)

Photo: Fotolia

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