Effects of obesity on children's brain function

Friday, May 13, 2011 at Friday, May 13, 2011
After watching 2 episodes of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, I have to say it is appalling how our kids eat in public schools.  Nothing but over-processed, over-sugared, calorie loaded crap.  I can't accept that parents don't care, or refuse to believe that kids need proper, healthy nutrition...you know, fruits, vegetables, whole grains...Therefore, I can only assume (and hope) that parents just don't know that their kids are fed crap and when they find out, boy o' boy, they are going to do something about it!

We have all heard the alarming statistics of obesity rates in this country, and the subsequent deleterious health risks.  And there are harmful effects of obesity on the brain.  Studies have also shown that obese children are more likely to have lower IQ's (Olsson and Hutling, 2010), lower cognitive function and greater behavioral problems (Miller et al., 2006), greater risk for developing pseudomotor cerebri (buildup of pressure by fluid around the brain, aka idiopathic intracranial hypertension) and last but not least, brain lesions similar to what is observed in Alzheimer's patients (Miller et al., 2006). In 2010, a study was published in Diabetologia stating that obese adolescents with type 2 diabetes had impaired performance on learning and memory tasks compared to just obese cohorts.  MRI scans also showed reduced white matter (tissue where messages pass from one area of the brain to another). ...have I scared you enough?!  Here is a good article detailing how obesity effects a child's body:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/health/childhoodobesity/obesityeffects.html

Hope is on the horizon...

A researcher (Dr. Echon) with the San Antonio-based Social & Health Research Center was awarded a huge grant (a la $2 million) to study the caloric intake of 5 elementary schools.  The schools were chosen based on the high rates of obesity and diabetes, so lower-income schools.  It is estimated that 33% of children living in Bexas County (San Antonio/surrounding areas) are obese.  Yikes!

Dr. Echon said the aim is to inform the parents of these children how many calories their darling buds of joy are consuming.  So, in a nutshell, here is how it works.  Kids are assigned a bar code for their tray. Once they have ordered all of their food, a camera at the cashier station will snap a picture of said food.  Once the child hands in the tray, another camera snaps a photo of the remaining food.  A computer program then analyzes the remaining food for calorie and nutrient consumption. Parents will then receive a copy of the data.  The data will also be used to analyze what food kids are choosing to eat. No photo will be of any child, just the food.

With all of the information about how obesity negatively effects kids, from psychological to physical to actually altering brain plasticity, programs like this really need parental support.  In addition to signing the permission slip to let these programs occur, parents need to improve the quality of food for their children.  I live in the suburbs, therefore I am a bit jaded because all I see when I go to the grocery store are, lets just say, very rotund individuals.  Grocery carts filled with processed foods, sodas, cookies, high-sugar cereals...but very little fruit, veggie, etc.  If you are an adult and you want to be the size of a small aircraft carrier, more power to you (not really, but you are an adult).  But, for your kids sake, for the sake of their potential future investment into society, care enough to make sure these kids are getting proper nutrition.  They deserve the right to learn the best they can and not be hindered by a poor diet that leads to obesity and the deleterious physical and mental consequences.

Now go eat an apple!


Works cited:

http://diabetes.webmd.com/news/20100803/brain-abnormalities-in-obese-kids-with-diabetes


Miller J, Kranzler J, Liu Y, Schmalfuss I, Theriaque DW, Shuster JJ, Hatfield A, Mueller OT, Goldstone AP, Sahoo T, Beaudet AL, Driscoll DJ. Neurocognitive findings in Prader-Willi syndrome and early-onset morbid obesity. J Pediatr. 2006 Aug;149(2):192-8.

Stevenson SB. Pseudotumor cerebri: yet another reason to fight obesity. J Pediatr Health Care. 2008 Jan-Feb;22(1):40-3.

Olsson GM, Hulting AL. Intellectual profile and level of IQ among a clinical group of obese children and adolescents. Eat Weight Disord. 2010 Mar-Jun;15(1-2):e68-73.

2 comments

  1. Hanna Says:

    Have you ever read this report by the Comptroller? http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/obesitycost/
    She is a big advocate on reducing obesity in Texas. This is what I worked on at TDA...Making school meals better! I agree that is starts with the parents. You also have to take into account that the school cafeteria personnel sometimes don't follow the recipes. We had a hard time trying to get them to follow the guidelines. It also scares me that Texas is reducing school funding, meaning less money for healthier meals.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    "Grocery Store Obsrvation: the correlation between the grocery carts and those who are pushing them."

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