Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Differences in Children's Brains and Bodies Compared to those of Adults May Influence Childhood Obesity

To address childhood obesity, much thought is given to techniques that can motivate children to follow a healthy diet and to increase physical activity. Attention is given to overweight and obese children's families. Working with parents and other adults in a child's home to change the home environment can be an important factor in curbing the rate of obesity in children. However, another investigational avenue might be the differences in the brains of children, compared to adults, to see if these differences play a role in obesity in children.

Indeed, childhood obesity receives a good deal of research, as it should. Childhood obesity can cause serious problems for a child during childhood. It can cause social problems such as ostracism and bullying. And childhood obesity can cause health problems, including high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes during childhood and later in life. So investigating anything that may help curb obesity in children is worthy of research. Therefore, brain differences are worth looking at.

One study indicates that a child's body uses sugar in different  ways compared to how an adult's body uses sugar, while another study suggests that changes in fat tissue start very early in an obese child's life. Both these studies were presented at the American Diabetes Association's 74th Scientific Sessions (2014).

In one of these studies, done by Yale School of Medicine researchers, "It [was] found that, in adolescents, glucose increased the blood flow in the regions of the brain implicated in reward-motivation and decision-making, whereas in adults, it decreased the blood flow in these regions." The researchers don't know what these differences mean, but the fact that children and adults process glucose differently may be significant.

In another study presented at the Scientific Sessions by German researchers,  it was concluded that  'obese children start to have not only more but also larger adipocytes, or fat cells, at a very young age and that this is associated with increased inflammation and is linked to impaired metabolic function..."'

Hence, looking at ways of changing the environment that children live in, and motivating children and children's families to follow healthy lifestyles will play a role in curbing childhood obesity. And a promising new area of investigation may be the brains and bodies of children. Discovering how children's brains and bodies differ from those of adults may lead to tools that can help fight childhood obesity.


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