Certain sex-specific brain signals could be the driving factors behind men and women gaining weight differently, a new study has revealed.

In the study, published in the journal Brain Communications, it was found that different mechanisms of the brain's function instill different patterns of weight gain and ingestive behaviors.

The study also investigated whether other clinical markers such as anxiety and depression influenced this phenomenon in some way.

"We found differences in several of the brain's networks associated with early life adversity, mental health quality and the way sensory stimulation is experienced," the study author, Arpana Gupta, a brain, obesity, and microbiome researcher at the University of California, said in a statement, Eureka Alert reported.

"The resulting brain signatures, based on multimodal MRI imaging, may help us more precisely tailor obesity interventions based on an individual's [biological] sex," she said.

How do brain changes affect obesity?

The category of obesity is determined based on the person's body mass index (BMI).

The study comprised 78 men and women with a high body mass index--which put them in an overweight category--and 105 men and women with a lower BMI.

The participants were made to fill out a questionnaire that asked them about anxiety and depression symptoms, childhood trauma, sensitivity to common conditions such as headaches and dizziness, food addiction, bowel symptoms, personality traits, and other factors, as per Healthline.

The result found that a high body mass index in both men and women was tied to specific changes in brain connectivity. Researchers also found how different people reacted to different food-associated cues was linked with early-life trauma.

The study also showed that women with high BMI had a higher rate of fluctuation in brain connectivity associated with greater anxiety and lower resilience compared to men with high BMI.

Other connectivity changes implied that women may have difficulty processing action-direction goals and seek comfort in food to ease the emotional strain, which leads to weight gain.

In an earlier study conducted by Gupta and her colleagues, it was found that emotion-driven overeating made women more susceptible to weight gain than men, whose eating behavior depended on gut sensations' awareness and visceral responses.

Hence, the researchers emphasized tackling emotional regulation techniques and vulnerability factors in designing treatment plans for women with a higher BMI count.

The study will make room for more research regarding the role of emotional regulation in weight loss, both in adolescents and older women.

"It is important to acknowledge each patient's metabolic system and the social determinants of health," said Dr. Ilan Shapiro, chief health correspondent and medical affairs officer at AltaMed Health Services in Los Angeles, who wasn't part of the study.

Shapiro emphasizes taking into account the factors like age, gender, mental health, and chronic diseases to achieve the best outcome while customizing obesity treatments.

Obesity in America
The U.S. appears to keep getting fatter with predictions that over 50 percent of adults will be obese by 2030. REUTERS/David Gray

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