Brain power — not will power — a key to weight loss

By Terry A. Rondberg

Increasingly, chiropractors and other wellness professionals are called upon to help patients and clients lose weight. Obesity is a huge problem in our society and the medical approach is not only dangerous, but it doesn’t work.

Brain PowerNeither does will power, according to a recent study led in Australia by the Monash Obesity and Diabetes Institute (MODI) at Monash University. Researchers were trying to figure out why some people seem to be able to eat anything they want and never gain weight, while others put on the pounds after looking at food.

The answer, they say, is in the way our brains function. “We discovered that a high-fat diet caused brain cells to become insulated from the body, rendering the cells unable to detect signals of fullness to stop eating,” stated MODI director Michael Cowley. Apparently, the “insulation” acts like a fatty “subluxation,” interfering with the signals that tell the body to stop eating and to burn energy from reaching the brain efficiently.

“Secondly, the insulation also created a further complication in that the body was unable to detect signals to increase energy use and burn off calories/kilojoules,” Cowley added.

The research showed that support cells in the brain developed overgrowth in a high-fat diet. This prevented the regular brain cells (the melanocortin system or POMC neurons) from connecting with other neural mechanisms, which determine appetite and energy expenditure.

Professor Cowley said the study findings provide a critical link in addressing the obesity epidemic. “These neuronal circuits regulate eating behaviours and energy expenditure and are a naturally occurring process in the brain. The circuits begin to form early in life so that people may have a tendency towards obesity even before they eat their first meal,” he explained.

Eating a high fat diet causes more “insulation” in the nerve cells, and makes it even harder for the brain to help a person lose weight.

“Obese people are not necessarily lacking willpower. Their brains do not know how full or how much fat they have stored, so the brain does not tell the body to stop refuelling. Subsequently, their body’s ability to lose weight is significantly reduced,” the researcher commented.

What I find particularly interesting about this research is that it confirms that neurobiology is the key factor in obesity (as it is with so many other — and probably ALL other — health issues).

That’s important since other research has shown that we can learn, through techniques such as neurofeedback, to actually control and change our neurobiology. For instance, a 2009 study published in the scientific journal EEG and Clinical Neuroscience demonstrated that neurofeedback can be regarded as an evidence-based treatment for Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).”

It won’t be long before chiropractors can begin teaching patients how they can monitor and control their own neurological functions and allow the proper brain signals to reach organs and tissues throughout the body. That, coupled with chiropractic adjustments, can propel our profession into the vanguard of the new wellness revolution — and finally allow our patients to enjoy optimal health.

SOURCE: “Synaptic input organization of the melanocortin system predicts diet-induced hypothalamic reactive gliosis and obesity,” Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. Published online before print August 2, 2010. Abstract

About the Author, Terry A. Rondberg, DC
Dr. Terry A. Rondberg, CEO of the World Chiropractic Alliance, is a nationally known author, speaker and advocate for drug-free wellness and alternative care, especially subluxation-based chiropractic.