Pediatric Obesity and Depression Connected in the Brain

Posted on May 23, 2018

This study done by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine are based on brain MRI scans of children and teenagers ages 9-17 who struggled with depressive symptoms and maintaining a healthy weight. Young people who had both conditions had low volumes in two of the brain's reward-processing areas, the hippocampus and anterior cingulate cortex. The participants' brain abnormalities also were linked to their level of insulin resistance, itself a precursor to diabetes.

According to the study's lead author, Manpreet Singh, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, children and teenagers who have both conditions often feel stigmatized and may hesitate to pursue treatment, and it is important to destigmatize these issues. Therefore, understanding that there is a brain basis may help both children and parents be solution-focused when dealing with these issues.

The characteristics of the participants' hippocampus and anterior cingulate cortex were correlated to their levels of insulin resistance and to their degree of depression, with lower volumes of the two brain regions in children and teens who had more insulin resistance or severe depression, or both. Greater insulin resistance and greater depression were also linked to stronger connections between the two reward centers. The participants' level of insulin in fasting versus after consuming glucose correlated to the exact location and nature of their brain abnormalities, with somewhat different characteristics in the brains of children whose insulin was higher during fasting rather than after-glucose states.

When obesity and depression begin in childhood, they tend to persist throughout life. Depressed youth may experience a cycle of overeating to try to make themselves feel better, followed by weight gain, ongoing depressed feelings and weight-related bullying that further worsens their depression. With this new study, there is better understanding of the earliest age at which this vulnerability begins, and the earliest time intervention is possible.

Category(s):Child and/or Adolescent Issues, Depression

Source material from Science Daily

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