Neural activity in self-related brain regions in response to tailored nutritional messages predicts dietary change

Luis Alberto Casado-Aranda*, Nynke van der Laan, Juan Sánchez-Fernández

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Overweight and obesity have become international public health problems, so there is an urgent need to implement effective interventions that prevent these concerning health issues. Designing personalized (tailored) dietary communications has become one of the most effective tools in reducing unhealthy eating behavior, when compared with one-size-fits-all messages (untailored). However, more research is required to gain a complete understanding of the underlying mechanisms by which tailored nutritional messages elicit reductions in unhealthy dietary behavior. To the best of our knowledge, our study may be the first to use neuroimaging, namely functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), aiming to evaluate the neural basis of tailored and untailored nutritional messages and assess how these neural responses predict unhealthy food intake reduction after a month receiving tailored nutritional messages. To that goal, 30 participants were scanned while reading tailored and untailored nutritional messages. Subsequently, for a month, they received tailored interventions encouraging healthy food intake. The neural findings reveal that when compared to untailored communications, tailored messages elicit brain networks associated with self-relevance, such as the precuneus, the middle temporal gyrus, the hippocampus, the inferior orbitofrontal cortex (OBC), the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dMPFC), and the angular gyrus. Interestingly, among these self-related brain areas, the dMPFC, OFC, angular gyrus, and hippocampus forecast reductions in unhealthy food intake after a one-month tailored intervention for the cessation of unhealthy eating. These results may offer implications for clinicians, practitioners, and/or policymakers who should implement substantial efforts in creating individualized campaigns focused on their target's perceived needs, goals, and drivers in relation to eating healthy to reduce overweight issues. This research therefore constitutes a step forward in showing a direct association between the neural responses to tailored nutritional messages and changes in real-life healthy eating behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105861
JournalAppetite
Volume170
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Behavior change
  • fMRI
  • Neuroimaging
  • Tailored messages
  • Unhealthy eating behavior

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