Are you likely to gain weight? The milkshake test will tell you

Friday 17th October, 2008

How do you know if you’re someone who is likely to put on weight? Easy, take the milkshake test. That’s what US researchers have discovered after studies into what makes one person gain more weight over another.

This latest study involved brain imaging to determine responses to drinking milkshakes (chocolate of course!). Those who had the weakest response were more likely to gain weight one year on.

A poor response to food also had associations to a gene that controls responses to a chemical that controls pleasure, known as ‘dopamine’.

Previous studies have shown that obesity may be caused when people get less pleasure from food and this latest research seems to back that up.

The researchers set about testing two sets of female participants. One group of over 40 students aged between 18 and 22, and a group of over 30 teenagers of 14 to 18 years-old. The studies measured activity in the dorsal striatum part of the brain while the participants drank a chocolate milkshake and a tasteless drink. Each person was also tested for ‘TaqA1’, a genetic variant that has links to dopamine receptors.

One year on from the study, those females with a poor response when drinking the chocolate milkshake and a present TaqA1 genetic variant were more likely to put on weight.

Researchers said this is the first study of its kind to link pleasure from food with future weight gain. Previous studies have only suggested obesity is associated with less pleasure from eating.

“The evidence that this relation is even stronger for individuals at genetic risk for compromised signalling in these brain regions points to an important biological factor that appears to increase risk for obesity onset,” said Dr Eric Stice, from the Oregon Research Institute.

“It is possible that behavioural or pharmacological interventions that correct this reward deficit may help prevent and treat obesity.”

The clinical director of the National Obesity Forum has commented that the results of this study have interesting parallels with addiction.

“There is a debate about whether you can have a genuine addiction to food,” said Dr David Haslam, GP.

“But someone say on low dose heroin becomes resistant to the dopamine response and needs more and more.

“This is very interesting but it doesn’t really help us now with tackling obesity.”

Obesity is a growing problem in the UK in both adults and children. Alternative medicine and complementary therapy has a number of effective and beneficial treatments for those people who are obese.

Find out more about overcoming obesity here



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