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Imaging Research on Obese Kids May Lead to New Treatments

Radiological Society of North America researchers have used imaging research on obese kids and discovered that food smells activated parts of the brain which are typically associated with impulsive behaviors. These brain areas are also linked with obsessive compulsive disorder development. Mexico City Hospital Infantil de México Federico Gómez chief radiologist Pilar Dies-Suarez, M.D. explained the study by saying “In order to fight obesity, it is crucial to understand the brain mechanisms of odor stimulus. This study has given us a better understanding that obesity has a neurological disorder component, and the findings have the potential to affect treatment of obese patients.” Further understanding about obesity is needed but all the evidence so far points to obesity being similar to other mental health disorders, and this could lead to the development of new treatments for obese kids which provide better outcomes and results for the patient.

The imaging research on obese kids is an important step. In the USA childhood obesity is a growing problem, one that has been classified as an emerging health crisis. America has almost 13 million obese kids, and these children face higher than average risks for many health problems and medical conditions. The study involved 30 kids, 50% of them were at a normal BMI that ranged from 19 to 24 and 50% of the participants were classified as obese because their BMI was over 30. Each study participant was exposed to 3 different smells: chocolate, onion, and an odor that was neutral. During this time there were 2 MRI techniques used to monitor brain activity. The obese kids showed different activity patterns in their brains when they were exposed to chocolate than the normal BMI group did. There were also brain pattern differences when both groups were exposed to the smell of onions. According to Dies-Suarez “If we are able to identify the mechanisms that cause obesity, we will be able to change the way we treat these patients, and in turn, reduce obesity prevalence and save lives.”

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