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OBJECTIVE: Weight loss achieved with very-low-calorie diets (VLCDs) can produce remission of type 2 diabetes (T2D), but weight regain very often occurs with reintroduction of higher calorie intakes. In contrast, bariatric surgery produces clinically significant and durable weight loss, with diabetes remission that translates into reductions in mortality. We hypothesized that in patients living with obesity and prediabetes/T2D, longitudinal changes in brain activity in response to food cues as measured using functional MRI would explain this difference. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: Sixteen participants underwent gastric bypass surgery, and 19 matched participants undertook a VLCD (meal replacement) for 4 weeks. Brain responses to food cues and resting-state functional connectivity were assessed with functional MRI pre- and postintervention and compared across groups. RESULTS: We show that Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery (RYGB) results in three divergent brain responses compared with VLCD-induced weight loss: 1) VLCD resulted in increased brain reward center food cue responsiveness, whereas in RYGB, this was reduced; 2) VLCD resulted in higher neural activation of cognitive control regions in response to food cues associated with exercising increased cognitive restraint over eating, whereas RYGB did not; and 3) a homeostatic appetitive system (centered on the hypothalamus) is better engaged following RYGB-induced weight loss than VLCD. CONCLUSIONS: Taken together, these findings point to divergent brain responses to different methods of weight loss in patients with diabetes, which may explain weight regain after a short-term VLCD in contrast to enduring weight loss after RYGB.

Original publication




Journal article


Diabetes Care

Publication Date





1842 - 1851


Brain, Caloric Restriction, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2, Gastric Bypass, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Obesity, Morbid, Weight Loss