Monday, December 5, 2011

Active nervous system predicts effective weight loss

Surprisingly, scientists have found a correlation between activity of the nervous system and someone's success in losing weight. They showed that increased activity of the autonomous nervous system during rest affects the rate at which the body's metabolises, and the rate at which calories derived from food are being used up. According to the researchers, working at an institute in Melbourne, Australia, the measured activity can accurately predict obesity, which is a helpful tool in analysing one's change on losing weight.
Sympathetic nervous system
The part of the nervous system that was found to be increased in activity in those successfully losing weight is called the sympathetic nervous system. This is part of the neural network that automatically regulates various bodily functions. It is mainly involved in mobilizing parts to get the body in shape to perform physical activity. It also controls the basal metabolic rate, which is the rate at which the body works during rest. Consequently, the activity of the sympathetic nervous system also determines how much energy we use, and that is of course helpful when one wants to lose weight.

The study
In their experiments, scientists let participants cut down on daily calories by 30 percent, and measured after a few weeks how much weight they lost. This was consequently correlated with activity of the sympathetic nervous system. They found that the weight loss was independently predicted by activity of this particular part of the nervous system. Scientists also measured what happened after participants consumed a carbohydrate-rich meal. Not surprisingly, a larger increase in neural activity after the meal correlated with successful weight loss.

The problem of obesity is quite simple. When someone consumes more calories than the body can use, it is stored as fat. Store too much of it, and you will get problems. Obesity is a pathological form of having too much fat. If the body consumes more energy at a basal level, it is not surprising that losing weight is more effective, as there is less energy left that could be stored as fat.

While you can not increase the activity of the sympathetic nervous system easily, the measurements do provide a predictive factor for doctors. Obese patients will know whether they have a good chance on losing their weight, or if they need to try harder to get rid of their extra kilos. For those unable to lose weight, there are other novel options being explored. Gene therapy is an example, as scientists have found that certain modifications in the genome predict weight gain and obesity. In addition, one particular gene was found to keep weight stable.

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