The Impact of Restrictive and Non-restrictive Dietary Weight Loss Interventions on Neurobehavioral Factors Related to Body Weight Control: the Gaps and Challenges

Curr Obes Rep. 2021 Sep;10(3):385-395. doi: 10.1007/s13679-021-00452-y. Epub 2021 Jul 27.


Purpose of review: Restrictive diets, such as low-calorie diets, are difficult to maintain in the long term. For this reason, their popularity has decreased compared to non-restrictive approaches, which instead promote healthy eating strategies. Since both strategies may entail different neurobiological mechanisms, this review will examine the current evidence on the effects of restrictive and non-restrictive interventions on neurobehavioral factors.

Recent findings: Restrictive diets appear to improve eating behaviors, and the evidence reviewed argues against the notion that they may worsen the severity of binge eating. Moreover, they may lead to short-term changes in brain structure and improvements in cerebrovascular markers which, in turn, could impact eating behaviors. Non-restrictive interventions may have a positive effect on weight management and eating behaviors. However, evidence of their neural effects is scarce. Small sample sizes, short follow-ups, and the absence of control groups are limitations of the studies targeting both interventions. Rigorous long-term randomized studies are needed to examine the neurobehavioral effects of restrictive and non-restrictive approaches.

Keywords: Dietary intervention; Eating behaviors; MRI; Neurobehavioral factors; Non-restrictive diet; Restrictive diet.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Weight
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Diet, Healthy
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Weight Loss*