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MD Anderson Obesity and Cancer Expert Researches Food Addiction

Released: 30-Oct-2013 8:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
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Susan Schembre, Ph.D., R.D., Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Schembre is exploring the underlying cognitive and behavioral aspects of eating behavior that distinguish obese people in an effort to develop strategies to increase self-control around food without dieting. Her team is also designing weight control interventions that use technology-based monitoring systems to promote changes in eating behavior.

She has recently launched a study called “Project Weight” that compares the neurological responses to food cues of obese individuals, obese individuals in a weight loss program and lean individuals with no prior weight issues. Schembre and her team are measuring the brain’s electrical responses (otherwise known as event-related potentials, or ERPs) to images of food and other emotional cues to study whether altered “reward circuits” in the brain are associated with excessive body weight and unsuccessful weight loss.

“Several studies have shown behavioral and neurological similarities between drug addiction and obesity,” says Schembre. “These behavioral and neurological similarities lay the foundation for exploring other parallels between addiction and obesity that could help us design more effective weight control treatments.”

Schembre is available for telephone interviews or live broadcast appearances from MD Anderson's on-site studio.

Research interests:
• Exploring the neural and genetic determinants
of excessive weight gain
• Assessing weight-related eating behaviors and
the contextual factors (e.g., environmental,
neurological, physiological, and
psychological) that promote obesity using
multiple technological and non-technological
• Applying theories of behavior change and the
multiple health behavior approach to
understanding the initiation and maintenance
behaviors that influence energy balance
(physical activity and dietary intake)
• Developing innovative weight control
interventions in young adults and cancer

Memberships include:
• Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior
• Scientific Research Society
• The Obesity Society
• Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


About MD Anderson Cancer Center
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston ranks as one of the world's most respected centers focused on cancer patient care, research, education and prevention. MD Anderson is one of only 41 comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute. For ten of the past 11 years, including 2013, MD Anderson has ranked No. 1 in cancer care in “America's Best Hospitals,” a survey published annually in U.S. News & World Report. MD Anderson receives a cancer center support grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (P30 CA016672).

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