NIH-funded study links adolescent brain differences to increased waistlines
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
According to a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and nine other institutes, all of which are part of the National Institutes of Health. the paper, published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is based on data from Adolescent Cognitive Brain Development (ABCD) Study. The ABCD study will follow nearly 12,000 children into early adulthood to assess factors that influence individual brain development and other health outcomes.
The results of this study provide the first evidence for microstructural differences in the brain related to waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) in children. These microstructural differences in cell density could indicate inflammatory processes triggered by a diet high in foods high in fat.
“We know that childhood obesity is a key predictor of adult obesity and other health problems later in life,” said Nora D. Volkow, MD, director of NIDA. “These findings build on previous animal studies to reveal what may turn out to be a vicious cycle in which diet-related inflammation in striated regions of the brain promotes other unhealthy eating behaviors and weight gain.” . “
Evidence from previous human imaging studies has demonstrated the relationship between NAcc and unhealthy eating behaviors in adults. In this study, the researchers exploited new diffusion MRI imaging techniques to examine the cellular structure of areas that make up the striatal reward pathway in the brain to study disproportionate weight gain in young people.
This study included data from 5,366 participants in the ABCD study, aged 9 to 10 years at baseline, of whom 2,133 returned for a one-year follow-up visit. The participants’ average waist circumference, used here as a measure of body fat, increased by an average of 2.76 centimeters per participant between the baseline and the one-year follow-up. The researchers used a non-invasive MRI technique to show that a purported cell density marker in the NAcc reflected differences in waist size at baseline and predicted an increase in waist size at one year of follow-up.
The ABCD study being longitudinal, it will make it possible to assess whether this association is maintained or changes during adolescent development, and what factors may influence this trajectory.
Obesity in the United States affects approximately 35% of children and adolescents and is associated with negative health consequences, mentally and physically, as well as higher death rates. Obese children are more than five times more likely to become obese in adulthood. Predictive models of weight gain in young people, combined with knowledge of the factors that could affect this trajectory, would be beneficial for public health and individual well-being.
The Adolescent Cognitive Brain Development Study and the ABCD Study are trademarks and service marks, respectfully, of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): NIDA is a component of the National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a wide variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance the science of addiction. For more information about NIDA and its programs, visit www.drugabuse.gov.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH):NIH, the country’s medical research agency, comprises 27 institutes and centers and is a component of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The NIH is the principal federal agency that conducts and supports basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and studies the causes, treatments, and cures for common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
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Rapuano, KM; Laurent, JS; Hagler, Jr. DJ; Hatton, SN; Thompson, WK; Jernigan, TL; Dale, AM; Casey, BJ; Watts and R. Cytoarchitecture Nucleus accumbens predicts weight gain in children. PNAS. October 12, 2020.