Experts say it’s important to treat obesity in teenage years before health issues become worse in adulthood. Researchers say MRIs have revealed signs of brain damage in teens with obesity. They say the damage may affect a hormone in the brain that signals to people when they’re full and should stop eating.
Experts say it’s important to treat obesity in teenagers because the health issues can worsen in adulthood. A study using MRI scans has found signs of damage in the brains of teenagers with obesity.The results of the small study were reported Sunday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.The research suggests that along with weight gain, obesity can trigger inflammation throughout the body and the nervous system that could lead to damage in the brain.
Brain changes found in obese adolescents related to important regions responsible for control of appetite, emotions, and cognitive functions, Pamela Bertolazzi, study co-author and a biomedical scientist and PhD student from the University of São Paulo in Brazil, said.
Experts who spoke with Healthline note the study is small and hasn’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal.However, Danelle M. Fisher, MD, a pediatrician and vice chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, says the findings could alter the approach to obesity research.I think this is going to take researchers in a different direction. It really would explain these patterns of behavior that we see in these teens who are having problems with obesity, she told Healthline.Sometimes the eating is behavioral in nature, it’s sublimating certain emotions with food, as opposed to dealing with them in other ways, Dr. Fisher added. It would explain some of the rise in obesity that we’ve seen over the past many years.Obesity in younger people has been on the rise over the past 50 years. In the United States, the percentage of children and adolescents with obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s.According to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source, the prevalence of obesity in those aged 12 to 19 is now 20 percent. It’s a problem Gina L. Posner, MD, a pediatrician in Fountain Valley, California, says is only getting worse.In my patient population, it’s really significant. We have a lot of obese teens, she said. We have a very sedentary lifestyle at this point. A lot of teenagers are just playing on their phone, playing on their iPad, watching TV.
They’re really not getting up and out and moving as much as they used to in the past. That’s definitely creating more of a problem because we’re just a lazier culture.
I’m still not comfortable prescribing those medications because most of them are actually meant for people who are older and they’re not really studied well in the younger kids, she added.
“What we need to do now is study ways in which the damage caused by obesity could be reversed and/or prevented, Dr. Page added. Potential strategies could include changes in diet, increases in physical activity, reductions in sedentary behavior, and reductions in stress, all of which play an important role in brain development and cognitive function.