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Randomized Controlled Trial of Effects of Behavioral Weight Loss Treatment on Food Cue Reactivity.

Nursing Research 2023 November 2
BACKGROUND: It is not known whether behavioral weight loss can attenuate blood oxygen level-dependent responses to food stimuli.

OBJECTIVES: This randomized controlled trial assessed the effects of a commercially available behavioral weight loss program (WeightWatchers) compared to a wait-list control on blood-oxygen-level-dependent response to food cues.

METHODS: Females with obesity (N = 61) were randomized to behavioral weight loss or wait-list control. At baseline and follow-up, participants completed assessments that included functional magnetic resonance imaging scans to assess response to images of high-calorie foods (HCF) or low-calorie foods (LCF), and neutral objects.

RESULTS: There were no significant between-group differences in change from baseline to follow-up in any regions of the brain in response to viewing HCF or LCF. From baseline to follow-up, participants in behavioral weight loss, compared with wait-list control, reported significantly greater increases in desire for LCF. Changes in liking and palatability of LCF and liking, palatability, and desire for HCF did not differ between groups.

DISCUSSION: Behavioral weight loss was associated with increased desire for LCF without changes in neural reactivity to food cues. These results suggest that alteration of neurological processes underlying responsiveness to food is difficult to achieve through behavioral weight management alone.

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