When it comes to obesity, sufferers often face social stigma and their condition is commonly attributed to a lack of willpower or even laziness. However, new research suggests that food cravings in obese people might be rooted in something deeper.
There is a significant societal stigma associated with people living with obesity. Not only is it often assumed that those issues are always a direct result of excessive eating (and not, as is often the case, aggravated by hormonal abnormalities), but overeating is also seen as an avoidable indulgence, painting a picture of poor self-control rather than a real health issue. This widespread, erroneous understanding of the issue creates several difficulties for the overweight, which results in them having trouble getting jobs and ultimately aggravates the problem as they end up buying cheaper, lower-quality foods.
Recent research, however, points out that overeating may have previously unknown neurological roots. A study conducted by two universities in Spain and Australia has found that food craving stimulates different parts of the brain in obese individuals as opposed to normal-weight individuals.
The study showed that in obese individuals, the craving for food stimulated the area of the brain responsible for reward-based behavior, suggesting a parallel between food addiction and substance addiction, though this potential similarity remains controversial. This breakthrough shines a new light on what might cause an overeating problem in the absence of genetic factors.
Although more research is needed to clarify the relationship between obesity and neural connections, this is a significant step towards a better understanding of what causes obesity and, more importantly, of how it can be better prevented or reversed. Moreover, the study can help build awareness of the deeper factors behind obesity and hopefully help dispel some of the stigma frequently associated with the condition.
The U.S. government has already taken steps to prevent obesity and diabetes nationwide by helping provide greater access to affordable, healthy food in disadvantaged communities.