Inhibition of food craving is a metabolically active process in the brain in obese men

Gene Jack Wang, Ehsan Shokri Kojori, Kai Yuan, Corinde E. Wiers, Peter Manza, Christopher T. Wong, Joanna S. Fowler, Nora D. Volkow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: Obesity is associated with impaired inhibitory control over food intake. We hypothesized that the neural circuitry underlying inhibition of food craving would be impaired in obesity. Here we assessed whether obese men show altered brain responses during attempted cognitive inhibition of craving when exposed to food cues. Methods: Sixteen obese men (32 ± 8.7 years old, BMI = 38.6 ± 7.2) were compared with 11 age-matched non-obese men (BMI 24.2 ± 2.5) using PET and FDG. Brain glucose metabolism was evaluated in a food deprived state: no food stimulation, food stimulation with no inhibition (NI), and food stimulation with attempted inhibition (AI), each on a separate day. Individualized favorite food items were presented prior to and after FDG injection for 40 min. For AI, participants were asked to attempt to inhibit their desire for the food presented. Self-reports for hunger and food desire were recorded. Results: Food stimulation compared with no stimulation increased glucose metabolism in inferior and superior frontal gyrus, default mode network and cerebellum, in both groups. For both groups, AI compared with NI-suppressed metabolism in right subgenual anterior cingulate, orbitofrontal areas, bilateral insula, and temporal gyri. There was a stimulation-by-group interaction effect in obese (but not in non-obese) men showing increased metabolism in pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pgACC) and caudate during AI relative to NI. Changes in the food desire from NI to AI correlated negatively with changes in metabolism in pgACC/caudate in obese but not in non-obese men. Conclusions: Obese men showed higher activation in pgACC/caudate, which are regions involved with self-regulation and emotion/reward during AI. Behavioral associations suggest that successful AI is an active process requiring more energy in obese but not in non-obese men. The additional required effort to increase cognitive control in response to food stimulation in obese compared with non-obese men may contribute to their uncontrolled eating behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)590-600
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


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