Childhood Obesity May Do Lasting Damage To The Brain

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by StudyFinds.

Studies continue to show that childhood obesity puts kids at greater risk for developing diseases like Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. However, there’s a less talked about problem that excess weight at a young age could cause — poor brain health. Researchers working with the Radiological Society of North America found that children with a higher body mass index before reaching adolescence also displayed poorer cognitive functioning.

“We know being obese as an adult is associated with poor brain health,” says researcher Simone Kaltenhauser, a post-graduate research fellow in radiology and biomedical imaging at the Yale School of Medicine. “However, previous studies on children have often focused on small, specific study populations or single aspects of brain health.”

Kaltenhauser and the team used MRI data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study to reach their findings. This study included 11,878 children between nine and 10 years-old from 21 centers across the country in order to provide a diverse dataset that is representative of the greater population. According to BMI z-scores, which measure relative weight, adjusting for age, sex, and height, 21 percent and 17.6 percent were overweight or obese, respectively.

The team then evaluated brain health by examining information from structural MRI and resting-state functional MRI (fMRI) scans, which help capture changes in blood flow. Additionally, the team used diffusion tensor imaging to study the brain’s white matter.

After correcting for confounding factors like age, sex, race-ethnicity, left or right-handedness, and socioeconomic status, the researchers found that brain structure was altered in children of greater weight and BMI z-scores. Obese children also displayed impaired white matter integrity.

“It is striking that these changes were visible early on during childhood,” Kaltenhauser says in a media release. “We expected the decrease in cortical thickness among the higher weight and BMI z-score children, as this was found previously in smaller subsamples of the ABCD study.”

“However, we were surprised by the extent of white matter impairment.”

Source: StudyFinds

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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