Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Obese women may have learning deficit specific to food

Date:
July 17, 2014
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Obese women have a deficit in reward-based learning, but only when food is involved. Importantly, say researchers, those same women have no trouble at all forming accurate associations when the reward is money instead of food. The findings may lead to new, gender-appropriate ways to tackle the obesity epidemic.

"Our study shows that obesity may involve a specific impairment not in the processing of food itself, but rather in how obese individuals -- or at least obese women -- learn about cues in the environment that predict food," says Ifat Levy of Yale University.
Credit: © Ivelin Radkov / Fotolia

Obese women have a deficit in reward-based learning, but only when food is involved. Importantly, say researchers who report their findings in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on July 17, those same women have no trouble at all forming accurate associations when the reward is money instead of food. The findings may lead to new, gender-appropriate ways to tackle the obesity epidemic.

"Our study shows that obesity may involve a specific impairment not in the processing of food itself, but rather in how obese individuals -- or at least obese women -- learn about cues in the environment that predict food," says Ifat Levy of Yale University. "This is not a general learning impairment, as obese women had no problem [learning] when the reward was money rather than food. An intriguing possibility is that, by modifying flawed associations between food and environmental cues, we may be able to change eating patterns."

To test the ability of normal-weight and obese men and women of acquiring and modifying cue-reward associations, the researchers presented participants with one of two colored squares followed by a reward (a picture of either money or food) or not. In the first phase, the reward always followed one of the two colors. Later, the researchers reversed that predictable color association. Along the way, study participants were asked to predict the likelihood of a reward after seeing one color or another.

These studies showed that obese women struggled to make those predictions as accurately as normal-weight individuals or as obese men did when the reward was food, either pretzels or chocolate candies, as opposed to money. The gender difference came as a surprise to the researchers, who say they had expected to see a similar pattern in both obese men and women.

While it is not yet clear what's behind the learning deficit, the researchers say it may be triggered by concerns about food that are felt by obese individuals, and perhaps women especially, who are known to feel greater dissatisfaction with their body images. It will be interesting in future studies to consider which comes first -- the learning impairment or the weight -- by testing individuals both before and after weight-loss interventions including bariatric surgery.

Either way, the findings suggest that an immediate clinical shift of focus may be in order for at least some individuals looking to lose weight.

"Instead of focusing on reactions to the food itself, our results call for shifting attention to the way obese individuals learn about the environment and how they approach or ignore cues associated with food," the researchers write. "Rather than target these individuals' behavior with food, we suggest that a successful intervention should aim to modify their interactions with other cues that determine their eating patterns."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Zhihao Zhang, Kirk F. Manson, Daniela Schiller, Ifat Levy. Impaired Associative Learning with Food Rewards in Obese Women. Current Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.05.075

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Obese women may have learning deficit specific to food." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140717124840.htm>.
Cell Press. (2014, July 17). Obese women may have learning deficit specific to food. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140717124840.htm
Cell Press. "Obese women may have learning deficit specific to food." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140717124840.htm (accessed July 27, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) — A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccination, CDC Says

Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccination, CDC Says

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is blaming doctors for the low number of children being vaccinated for HPV. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins