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There's more to weight management than will power

Current approaches to dietary counseling for obesity are heavily rooted in the notion of personal choice and willpower — the ability to choose the healthy foods and portion sizes necessary for weight loss while forgoing sweets and high-fat foods.

But experts at Rush University Medical Center have proposed a new counseling approach that instead views obesity as the result of neurobehavioral processes — ways in which the brain controls eating behavior in response to cues in the environment. The new model is highlighted in an article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

"Typically, overweight and obese patients are simply encouraged to fight the powerful urge to eat tasty but unhealthy foods and make dietary choices consistent with weight loss,” says clinical psychologist Brad Appelhans, PhD, lead author of the article. "Yet, we know this approach rarely works — even highly motivated patients struggle.”

The new approach emphasizes how personal choice is affected by biological and environmental factors. It advises counselors to help patients control their weight through strategies focused on the interaction between the brain and the environment, such as removing tempting foods from the home and workplace, avoiding buffets and restaurants, and focusing on achieving short-term behavioral goals rather than long-term weight-loss goals.

Brain may benefit from B-12 
Research has revealed many things that can protect against cognitive decline as we age, from omega-3 fatty oils to large social networks. Now, a new study by researchers at Rush suggests that vitamin B-12 — found in fish, poultry, liver and other meat as well as animal products, such as eggs and milk — may also help safeguard the brain.

In the study, published in the journal Neurology, older adults with marginal vitamin B-12 deficiency scored lower on cognitive tests and had smaller total brain volume than those with normal levels of B-12.

"Our findings lend support for the theory that inadequate vitamin B-12 is a potential risk factor for brain atrophy and may contribute to cognitive impairment," says clinical nutritionist and lead study author Christy Tangney, PhD. "It's too early to say whether increasing vitamin B-12 levels in older people through diet or supplements could prevent these problems, but it's a question we intend to explore."

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