New treatment could curb overeating habits, help people with obesity adopt gut-healthy lifestyle

Norwegian researchers are diving into the results and effects of interdisciplinary treatment of individuals in the category of morbidly obese. Until now, most treatments of obesity revolve around eating less, eating healthier, and exercising more. However, some scientists speculate that long-term results may depend upon combining physical and psychological treatments and therapies. 

Lead researchers in this developing study think health remedies that treat overeating and obesity should stretch beyond just the negative results of chronic overeating and into the physiological reasoning. In this new mode of obesity treatment, patients realize what is internally contributing to a physical drive to overeat. Hopefully, these new realizations will help patients stop the problem at the internal source.

Researchers speculate that social barriers, negative body image, and shame also hinder participants from putting healthy lifestyle practices into action on a regular and consistent basis. The interdisciplinary aspects of this study look to help participants navigate these internal issues and make healthy habits part of each participant’s lifestyle. 

As previous research has shown, following a healthy diet can ensure a healthier gut. Because diet directly influences gut microbiome, making gut-healthy changes to one’s diet can also help prevent chronic disease and inflammation.

Parameters of the Study

Repetitive occurrences of individuals taking in more food than average in a bout of eating is the classical definition of overeating that this study uses to measure results over ten weeks. Over this time, study participants met together for 30 hours total. 

Forty-two adults participated in the study, all of whom asked for help treating obesity at the Obesity Outpatient Clinic at St. Olavs Hospital. The majority of participants were women, and each individual in the group had a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more, also known as third-degree obesity. Among the participants, six were recipients of some type of weight reduction surgery in the past.

The research therapy method focused on conducting treatment assessments in an emotionally safe and open environment. There was a teaching portion of the treatment and a breakout portion in which participants deeply discussed aspects of their daily life and lifestyle. Portions of the study also aided patients in understanding each of the unique triggers that prompt them to overeat from a psychological perspective. 

“We wanted to teach and make the patients aware of the connection between weight and mental health. During the ten weeks, the goal was for them to become more aware of the challenges they faced in everyday life and what strategies could help. Every individual was able to receive customized goals and measures this way,” says Eik-Nes in a statement. Eik-Nes is the study lead and an associate professor in the Department of Neuromedicine and Movement Science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

Study Results of New Treatment Method

An underlying yet promising result is that all research participants continued with treatment until the ten weeks were completed. 

After the study, researchers saw a quantifiable improvement in participants. Study participants reported an almost 30% reduction in bouts of overeating. Participants reported feeling less constraint in social situations. In addition, there was also substantial emotional progress in the realm of lessening anxiety, depression, inner turmoil, and irritability.    

The study did not measure and track weight loss over the ten weeks; however, researchers believe that many participants experience weight reduction due to positive reactions and reports by study participants.

Researchers are optimistic that approaching obesity management and prevention from a scope of mental and physical health can aid individuals in establishing healthy habits and making beneficial choices over a lifetime. 

This study is published in Frontiers in Endocrinology

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