|Study shows obesity, brain size are related|
|Written by Renee Changnon, Daily Vidette Staff Writer|
|Monday, 15 November 2010 22:34|
The cause of obesity may be explained by recent research that found those who are obese have a smaller orbitofrontal cortex in their brains, according to a recent study conducted at the New York University School of Medicine.
Study researcher Dr. Antonio Convit claims that these findings could suggest that obese teens’ “brains are wired differently, or damaged in a particular way that leads them to gain weight from overeating.”
According to an MSNBC article, Convit and his colleagues collected questionnaires on eating behaviors from 91 adolescents. The teens were on average 17-years-old; 54 were obese while 37 were considered to have a normal weight, and those who were obese had an average body mass index of 39.
The article explained that during research, those from the obese category had more impulsive eating behaviors. In addition, they found that the obese group had a smaller orbitofrontal cortex and performed worse on cognitive tests than the lean subjects.
“There are still a lot of unknowns regarding the cause of obesity and overeating. There is probably not one single cause. There do appear to be factors involving genetics, environment, metabolism and learned behavior,” Dr. Jean Swearingen, assistant medical director of Student Health Services, said.
“Unfortunately, that means that treatment may not be simple or straightforward. We do know that it isn’t simply a matter of will power. This study is relatively small, but combined with other information that is being researched, we will hopefully have more answers and solutions in the near future,” she added.
As the studies’ controversial subject matter brings up many questions, Dr. H. Tak Cheung, director emeritus of biological sciences, questions the legitimacy of the study. He emphasized the fact that obesity has been known for a long time to have a genetic component.
“The study says that a small brain change is due to obesity from losing the impulse to eat. In reality, it is far more complicated than that,” Cheung explained.
Cheung pointed out that in the study, “they do not know the cause or effect, so based on this, I don’t think there is too much thought one can put into the results.”
“When you look at the big picture, so many factors with food choices make this a possibility. The question is what do we do with that information? It’s not a simple solution,” Dianne Feasley, campus dietician, said.
Jamie Gatto, junior nursing major, found the study to be misleading by stating brain size is directly related to whether one is obese or not.
“Brain size is not a factor related to obesity. I believe that many teens lack the knowledge of how to eat healthy and that it is the responsibility of the healthcare workers to help teens reach a healthier lifestyle,” Gatto said.
In an AOL Health article, California nutritionist Douglas Husbands explained there “isn’t enough conclusive data to show a smaller brain leads to obesity, or vice versa.”
Although Husbands said he won’t rule out the study completely, he believes, “there is a lot more to it.”
According to the MSNBC article, while much of the study is based on association, it is known that obesity causes changes to the immune system, consequently leading to inflammation of the body, and in the case of obesity, inflammation of the brain.
After taking the entire study into consideration, Cheung warned that, “in reality, [the study] is far more complicated in terms of how our appetites are controlled both physiologically by the hormones in our body as well as our cognitive decisions.”