London - Obese children have areas of damage in their brains, researchers have warned.
Scans examining the brains of overweight teenagers found they had inflamed areas of white matter – the "wiring" of the brain – which may make it harder for them to control their eating habits.
The study, presented at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting in Chicago, involved 120 children aged 12 to 16, of which 59 were obese and 61 were a healthy weight.
MRI scans of the obese teenagers’ brains showed a relative decrease in white matter in the middle orbitofrontal gyrus – a region related to emotional control and the reward circuit – and that cells had been destroyed in the corpus callosum, which could reduce attention span.
Obese children were also found to overproduce leptin – an appetite-controlling hormone. In some overweight people, the brain does not respond to leptin, causing them to keep eating despite adequate or excessive fat stores.