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To eat or not to eat'; that is the question.

13 September 11


Dr Eleanor Bryant

Researchers at the University of Bradford looking into the emotional reasons why people overeat, could find the key to tackling obesity nationwide.

Obesity statistics across the United Kingdom are stark. Four years ago the Foresight report, 'Tackling Obesities: Future Choices', estimated the annual NHS costs of obesity treatment at £4.2 billion, and predicted that this would more than double by 2050 if left unchecked. It also noted the broader implications of obesity to our society and economy.  For example, the cost of obesity-related sickness absences are estimated at around £16 billion; this is predicted to rise to £50 billion per year by 2050.

It is therefore vital to understand the reasons why people over-eat, and find effective strategies to help address this major national health issue.
Researchers at the University of Bradford have defined a concept which they call 'Disinhibition' to understand an individual's attitudes towards what and how much they eat, and how much exercise they take.  Their work has identified a link between Disinhibition and eating disorders such as binge eating, Bulimia nervosa and weight cycling.  It also predicts the subject's inclinations towards higher levels of smoking and alcohol consumption.  

Dr Eleanor Bryant, Lecturer in Psychology in the University of Bradford's division of Psychology said that Disinhibition is a "really important factor for predicting weight gain and success at weight loss”. Whilst Disinhibition is "much stronger” in women than in men, the study showed no differences between socio-economic groups.
Individuals with high Disinhibition scores have stronger urges towards certain food groups, particularly sweet foods.  This reflects their emotional response to food, and suggests that they actually experience more pleasure when eating than subjects with lower scores. Other factors affecting weight gain include genetics, upbringing and the availability of food in modern society.  

It is possible that understanding a patient's Disinhibition will help health professionals to choose more effective interventions for obesity sufferers.  
Future studies will examine Disinhibition in children and teenagers, to help understand the influence of nurture on eating psychology.  This could help inform public education campaigns to offset weight-associated problems overeating before they arise.

13 September 11

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