Woman staring at chocolate cake
Woman staring at chocolate cake

Follow this diet? It’ll backfire big time

PEOPLE who are locked in a cycle of yo-yo dieting could be pushing themselves into compulsive eating.

Researchers have found that the pattern of calorie-cutting followed by binge-eating messes with the brain's ability to register when the body is satiated.

The findings from a Boston University School of Medicine study suggests that future research into treatment of compulsive eating behaviour should focus on rebalancing the mesolimbic dopamine system - the part of the brain responsible for feeling reward or pleasure.

The study states that people often overeat because it is pleasurable in the short term but then attempt to compensate by dieting, reducing calorie intake and limiting themselves to "safe", less palatable food.

But diets often fail, causing frequent relapse to overeating of foods high in fat and sugar which are palatable.

"We are just now beginning to understand the addictive-like properties of food and how repeated overconsumption of high sugar - similar to taking drugs - may affect our brains and cause compulsive behaviours," author Pietro Cottone co-director of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders at Boston University said.

Yo-yo dieting could actually pile on the kilos
Yo-yo dieting could actually pile on the kilos

Brisbane nutritionist Katie King told The Courier-Mail that this latest research highlights the need for people to understand the benefits of honing in on their own innate appetite signals.

"These signals help us to respond intuitively to what the body needs.

Eating consistently well most of the time does lead to better health outcomes than cycling from one extreme to the other," she said.

"We need to understand that because two foods have the same calorie count they may not be the same.

"If one is processed and palatable then this food can start a chain reaction that is similar to the brain's reaction to drugs.

"There is a scientific reason why we struggle to stop eating the full bag of chips."

The researchers hope these findings spark new avenues of research into compulsive eating that could help to lead to more effective potential treatments for obesity and eating disorders.

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