The New Brain Treatment That's Helping People Lose Weight

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Ever feel like health news is too overwhelming, fast-paced, or hard to decipher? Us, too. Here, we filter through the latest in integrative health, wellness trends, and nutrition advice, reporting on the most exciting and meaningful breakthroughs. We’ll tell you exactly what you need to know—and how it might help you become a healthier and happier human. 

There's a new weight loss strategy on the scene and surprisingly, it has nothing to do with exercise, genetics, or even food. Instead, it targets the brain. And although the specific technique—called deep trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS)—sounds a bit overwhelming, it's really just a noninvasive tool that sends magnetic pulses to stimulate different areas of the brain.

Can brain stimulation really help you lose weight?

For this study, researchers recruited three men and 12 women (all considered obese based their BMI) and divided them into two groups. Both groups attended 15 therapeutic sessions, but the first group received dTMS and the second group received a sham treatment. The researchers performed a microbiome analysis using stool samples and also measured blood sugar, insulin levels, and other hormones and neurotransmitters that have been shown to play a role in appetite regulation and the composition of the microbiome.

After five weeks, the dTMS group lost significantly more body weight and fat than the participants receiving the sham treatments. The data also showed an increased in good bacteria in the guts of the dTMS group. Essentially, the new technique altered the gut bacteria of the participants, which aids weight loss by reducing inflammation levels, improving the metabolism and regulating hormones.

What does this mean for fighting obesity?

This area of research could be a big deal in the fight against obesity, a disease that currently affects more than one-third of Americans and doesn't show any signs of letting up. And while brain stimulation for weight loss may seem out of left field, more and more research is showing that losing weight—especially for people who are obese—is far more complicated than the oversimplified "eat less" and "exercise more" equation. Various studies have shown that a microbiome lacking beneficial bacteria and bacterial diversity could be an underlying cause of obesity along with genetics, inflammation, and brain chemistry. As you can imagine, this gets very complicated very quickly.

It's safe to assume that most doctors—regardless of their conventional or holistic medical backgrounds—would agree that we need new, better treatments for obesity. And dTMS is an attractive approach when compared to pills or surgery—especially since it seems to address the underlying causes of the disease. Previous research on dTMS has shown that it can help control food cravings, it's already an approved treatment for depression, and now it seems to be able to induce weight loss. And although these studies have been small and a lot more research is needed before these treatments would be available to patients outside a research study—this could be a hopeful new avenue for outsmarting obesity, crushing weight loss resistance, and making weight management a little bit easier for everyone.

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