There's a New Reason You Can't Lose Weight, According to Science

It’s not just what you eat and how much you exercise that makes you shed pounds, a new study says.

If you're looking to keep your weight under control, common knowledge would have you believing it boils down primarily to two things: the number of calories you consume, and the number of calories you burn off. While these factors certainly play a prominent role, you may have found that no matter how many salads you eat and how many workouts you do, you still can't shed those pounds. Why? Well, new research is shedding light on the fact that thinking of weight loss purely in terms of the physical acts of eating and exercising is a mistake. In reality, the reason you can't lose weight may be because of the way your brain is seeing and smelling food. Read on to learn more, and if you want more tips on why the number on the scale is stuck, here's How to Overcome a Dreaded Weight Loss Plateau.

Researchers at the Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience at the Ben-Gurion University (BGU) in Israel recently discovered what they describe as "a neural subnetwork of connected regions between the brain and gastric basal electric frequency that correlates with future weight loss based on connectivity patterns." In lay terms, this means that people who see and smell food in a way that triggers their brain more enthusiastically are the same people who consistently overeat and gain weight.

smell food

The study looked at 92 people during an 18-month lifestyle weight loss intervention, led by Prof. Iris Shai of BGU's Department of Epidemiology. All had a large waist circumference and abnormal level of blood lipids (the fatty substances found in the blood, including cholesterol and triglycerides). "It appears that visual information may be an important factor triggering eating," principal investigator Prof. Galia Avidan, from the BGU Departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Psychology, said in a statement. "This is reasonable, given that vision is the primary sense in humans."

The findings, which were published the journal Neuroimage, led the researchers to conclude that "weight loss is not merely a matter of willpower, but is actually connected to much more basic visual and olfactory cues."

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Of course, weight management is a huge concern for many Americans. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 36.5 percent of American adults are obese, and another 32.5 percent are overweight. Additionally, 49 percent of U.S. adults surveyed between 2013 and 2016 reported trying to lose weight at some point during the prior 12 months, according to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Women were more likely to be making an effort to slim down (56.4 percent of women versus 41.7 percent of men).

Further research is needed on the link between your eyes and your weight, but this latest study suggests we need to think of weight loss as being as much to do with neurology as it is biology.

And if walking is your exercise of preference, check out Here's How Far You Need to Walk Every Day to Lose Weight.

John Quinn
John Quinn is a London-based writer and editor who specializes in lifestyle topics. Read more
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