More bad news about childhood obesity: Study finds it can change some kids’ brains and damage their mental ‘flexibility’

It’s not news that Kentucky is lagging in child fitness. In fact, the Truth for America’s Health “F as in Fat” report found that the state has the third highest childhood obesity rate in the country. This is bad news, alright, and it’s about to get worse. Dr. Claire McCarthy writes in The Boston Globe that a new study in the current issue of Pediatrics and shows that obesity can hurt kids’ brains.

“Researchers looked at 49 adolescents with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome, a consequence of obesity, is the triad of insulin resistance (pre-diabetes or diabetes), high blood pressure and high blood lipids,” McCarthy writes. “The researchers compared the adolescents with 62 adolescents who had the same socioeconomic background but didn’t have metabolic syndrome.

The kids with metabolic syndrome had more trouble with arithmetic, spelling, attention and mental ‘flexibility’ than the ones who didn’t have metabolic syndrome. Even more frightening, the researchers saw actual changes in their brains, in the hippocampus (which plays a crucial role in memory) and the white matter (which passes messages through the brain).

It was only a small study, and not all kids with obesity have metabolic syndrome. But this study is alarming — especially since we don’t know if losing weight can make the brain go back to normal.”

In her column tagged “MD Mama,” McCarthy goes on: “Given that brains are still developing in adolescence, it’s very possible that the changes could be permanent.

What else do we need before we take the problem of childhood obesity really seriously?” (Read more) To read the study in Pedatrics, go here.

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