The balance in brain networks in children who are obese is different compared to healthy-weight children, making them more prone to over-eating, suggests a new study.
Mindfulness has been shown to increase inhibition and decrease impulsivity. Since obesity and unhealthy eating behaviours may be associated with an imbalance between the connections in the brain that control inhibition and impulse, said the researchers from Vanderbilt University at Nashville in the US.
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“We know the brain plays a big role in obesity in adults, but what we understand about the neurological connections associated with obesity might not apply to children,” said lead author BettyAnn Chodkowski.
“We wanted to look at the way children’s brains function in more detail so we can better understand what is happening neurologically in children who are obese,” Chodkowski added.
The new research was published in the journal Heliyon.
Identifying children at risk for obesity early on and using mindfulness approaches to control eating may be one way to approach weight management, the researchers suggested.
They used data collected by the Enhanced Nathan Kline Institute — Rockland Sample from 38 children aged 8-13.
The data included children’s weights and their answers to the Child Eating Behaviour Questionnaire, which describes the children’s eating habits.
The researchers also used MRI scans that showed the function of the three regions of the brain they wanted to study.
From the study, five of the children were classified as obese, and six were overweight.
The results revealed a preliminary link between weight, eating behaviour and balance in brain function.
In children who behave in ways that make them eat more, the part of the brain associated with being impulsive appears to be more strongly connected than the part of the brain associated with inhibition.
Conversely, in children who behave in ways that help them avoid food, the part of the brain associated with inhibition is more strongly connected compared to the part of the brain associated with being impulsive, the researchers found.
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