Counselling for anorexia could also help cure obesity

Scientists believe giving obese people the same psychological counselling as those with anorexia could help them with their weight battle. Photo / APN
Scientists believe giving obese people the same psychological counselling as those with anorexia could help them with their weight battle. Photo / APN

It seems an odd idea, but scientists believe giving obese people the same psychological counselling as those with anorexia could help them with their weight battle.

The Australian scientists came up with the theory after discovering that although obese people and anorexics weigh in at opposite ends of the scales, they share a similar condition affecting the brain.

Both groups have executive function disorders (EFD), which means they have problems organising their daily lives.

Previous studies have linked anorexia to EFD. Scientists point to the rigidity and tight control those with the eating disorder exert over not just food but their entire lives as evidence of the brain disorder.

Researchers from the University of NSW reviewed 38 studies on obesity and high-level brain functions and found obese people were prone to EFD.

But where EFD can make anorexics keep a tight rein on things, obese people are often too flexible and find it hard to solve problems and achieve goals.

When it comes to food, the scientists believe EFD can play havoc with an obese person's ability to plan diets and to associate bad food choices with weight gain.

For anorexics, there has been some success with a type of psychological counselling known as cognitive remediation therapy which strengthens thinking skills.

The therapy is also used to treat people with schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Lead researcher Evelyn Smith believes the therapy could also work for obese people.

She said with the failure of diets and exercise programmes to help obese people shed weight for good, cognitive remediation therapy was worth investigating as a treatment option.

Dr Smith has started a trial involving 10 obese people undergoing sessions of cognitive remediation therapy for a month to see if it helps them lose weight.

- AAP

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