Stimulating the brain with electromagnetic pulses could reduce food cravings in people with obesity, a new study has found.
Researchers from Italy showed that stimulating the brain increases the levels of neurotransmitters, namely the feel-good chemical dopamine, in the blood of obese people, making them feel more satisfied after eating.
The study, presented at the European Society of Endocrinology annual meeting in Barcelona, suggests that the therapy — called deep transcranial magnetic stimulation — could offer a safe, non-invasive, drug-free treatment for obesity. It also offers insight into how low levels of certain neurotransmitters impacts your appetite.
Obesity alters the brain reward system
Research shows that the brain’s reward system is altered in obese people, leading to a heightened biochemical response to food.
What this means is that your pleasure-driven dopamine levels increase when you overeat, causing you to want even more of the food that makes you happy. In turn, higher dopamine levels lead to an increased vulnerability to cravings, which causes you to eat more and gain weight. It’s a tough cycle to break. A dysfunctional reward system is also linked to addiction to drugs, alcohol, and behaviors like gambling and sex.
Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS) combats food cravings
As part of the new study, researchers from the University of Milan in San Donato, Italy used deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS), which zaps the brain with magnetic energy to stimulate the brain’s neurons or nerve cells. In previous studies, dTMS has been shown to effectively combat depression and addictive behaviors.
The study analyzed the effects of dTMS on appetite and satiety in obese people. Specifically, they looked at the blood markers linked to food reward in 40 obese patients. Participants received single 30-minute dTMS sessions, either at high or low frequency. The findings revealed that high-frequency dTMS significantly increased neurotransmitter levels, particularly dopamine, in the blood of obese people.
“For the first time, this study is able to suggest an explanation of how dTMS could alter food cravings in obese subjects” says lead author Livio Luzi. “We also found that some blood markers potentially associated with food reward, for example glucose, vary according to gender, suggesting male/female differences in how vulnerable patients are to food cravings, and their ability to lose weight.”
Ways to increase your dopamine levels naturally
If you’re struggling with weight or addiction, speak with your doctor about electromagnetic therapy.
There are ways to increase your dopamine levels naturally:
Eat the right diet: The Bulletproof Rapid Fat Loss Protocol, designed for obese and severely overweight people who want to lose fat as fast as possible, helps you to eliminate the foods, like sugar, which wreck your reward system.
As Dave points out in The Bulletproof Diet, the major problem with sugar is that, much like cocaine, it triggers your reward system and decreases the number of dopamine receptors in your brain. It’s a slippery slope — the more sugar you consume, the less pleasure you actually experience. By eating so much sugar, you eventually develop dopamine resistance.. Yikes. So aim to eat foods that support healthy dopamine levels to begin with. These foods include grass-fed beef, wild salmon, and even dark chocolate.
Get a daily dose of L-tyrosine: L-tyrosine is an amino acid that acts as a precursor to dopamine, meaning it helps your body make dopamine. You can take 500-2000mg per day in pure supplement form. Or eat L-tyrosine-rich foods like avocados, chicken, and turkey.
Supplement with L-dopa or mucuna pruriens: Like L-tyrosine, L-dopa — which is found in the natural supplement mucuna pruriens — is a precursor to dopamine so you’re less likely to overstimulate your receptors and become immune to it. Mucuna pruriens helps decrease appetite, while boosting your energy and mood. Try 500-1,000mg of NOW Foods mucuna extract with food.
Take low-dose nicotine lozenges: Nicotine has been shown to prevent weight gain and even promote weight loss. Take 2mg of a lozenge or a spritz of nicotine spray to curb your appetite. Read here for more about the different forms of nicotine.
Mind your gut health: Consume probiotics and resistant starch – they boost the good bacteria in your gut and help moderate dopamine, which is synthesized in the gut.
You can find a good multi-strand probiotic in your local health food store. Look for one containing Bifidobacterium longum and lactobacillus helveticus — these are specifically mood-related.
The least toxic source of resistant starch is from plantains (Barry’s is a recommended brand.) You can work your way up to 4 tablespoons (48 grams) of plantain flour per day, for about 32 grams of resistant starch. Learn more about the benefits of resistant starch here.