MRI study to give new picture of obesity

A new MRI study could reveal why some people are more likely to become obese than others by examining what happens in the brain and gut when people consume food high in fat and carbohydrate.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham are looking for volunteers with a BMI above 30 kg/m2 to take part in the first study that will scan the brain and gut at the same MRI session.

The study will examine what happens in the brain and gut and the interactions between them when people consume fat and carbohydrate meals. The findings could provide a possible explanation for why some people develop a high body mass index (BMI) and are heavier than others.

Dr Sally Eldeghaidy is an Anne McLaren Fellow with the Future Food Beacon and is leading the research, she said: “This study could potentially reveal why some people become obese by understanding interactions between the brain and the gut after consuming fat and carbohydrate meals. Thanks to the state-of-the-art MRI scanning equipment we have at the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre at the University. We will for first time combine brain and gut imaging at the same MRI scan session, which will give us a full picture of what happens inside the body after we eat. We are keen to recruit volunteers for this study as soon as possible as this project was due to start last year but like so many things was delayed due to Covid.”

Overall 40 healthy volunteers between 18 and 45 years are needed – 20 with a BMI above 30 kg/m2 and 20 with normal BMI (between 19 and 25 kg/m2). All volunteers will need to attend two MRI sessions, where they will be fed a specially formulated mixture (suitable for vegan) containing fat and another with carbohydrate. During each session they will be scanned at intervals over 3.5 hours to measure brain and gut responses during fat and carbohydrate digestion. Blood will also be taken to measure satiety and appetite hormones in the blood. The scans will take place at the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre at the University of Nottingham and participants will be paid a disturbance allowance.

Dr Eldeghaidy continues: “During this study I expect to see some differences between how someone with a healthy BMI and someone with high BMI processes food. Understanding the mechanisms behind the regulation of food intake will lead to a greater understanding of some of the possible reasons for obesity and this knowledge could lead to better treatments and interventions.”

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