Study: Diet that manages hunger ‘cues’ helps people lose, maintain lower weight

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A diet that manages people’s responses to hunger cues helps them lose weight and keep it off, according to a new study. Photo by pxhere/Pixabay

A weight-loss program designed to change people’s internal response to feelings of hunger helps overweight adults shed pounds and maintain a healthy weight, a study published Wednesday showed.

Participants on the so-called Regulation of Cues approach, which is designed to train people to manage their response to natural cues of when to eat rather than focusing on calories, lost an average of 5 pounds, data published Wednesday by JAMA Network Open showed.

Those on a more conventional diet plan designed to encourage healthy eating behaviors lost about 9.5 pounds. but were three times more likely to engage in “loss of control eating,” or stop complying with the plan over time, the researchers said.

“Our findings suggest that the appetitive mechanisms targeted by Regulation of Cues may be especially critical for weight loss among individuals who have trouble resisting food,” study author Kerri N. Boutelle said in a press release.

“Individuals who need help losing weight can seek out the Regulation of Cues program if behavioral weight loss did not work for them, if they feel they have trouble resisting eating or if they never feel full,” said Boutelle, a professor of public health at the University of California-San Diego.

About three-fourths of adults in the United States are either overweight or obese, which increases a person’s risk for heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Behavioral weight loss programs, such as calorie counting, have been the primary weight-loss approach used nationally, according to Boutelle and her colleagues.

However not everyone responds to these approaches, and many regain the lost weight, research indicates.

The Regulation of Cues treatment is designed to reinforce tolerance of cravings or inhibiting urges to eat palatable foods when not physically hungry, Boutelle and her colleagues said.

Palatable foods are those that contain high amounts of sugar or fat with additional salt and other flavorings designed to stimulate the reward system in the brain and can be particularly challenging to resist, the researchers said.

For those who find it difficult to resist food, weight loss can be particularly challenging due to both hereditary and environmental and individual factors, they said.

For this study, 271 adults ages 18 to 65 years attended 26 group treatments over a 12-month period, during which they were asked to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous intensity physical activity per week.

Some of the participants were treated with a behavior weight loss program with a prescribed a diet, restricted calories foods, while others also were provided with Regulation of Cues training, the researchers said.

Weight loss was comparable in both groups after 24 months. However, participants who had Regulation of Cues training stabilized their weight and kept it off, while participants in the other groups regained weight, the data showed.

Regulation of Cues is being offered in another randomized clinical trial called Solutions for Hunger and Regulating Eating and at the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research, researchers said.

“There are individuals who are very food cue responsive — that is, they cannot resist food and/or cannot stop thinking about food,” Boulette said.

“Behavioral weight loss skills are not sufficient for these individuals, so we designed an alternative approach to address this clinical need,” she said.


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