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Brain signals dulled in obese children

The signals from our brain that tell us we’re full do not appear to work properly in obese children. This is the outcome of a study that is due to be presented at the Endocrine Society’s 99th annual meeting. The study used images of high-calorie foods and measured the brain activity of obese children after a meal, compared to their normal weight counterparts. Using a technique called Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) the researchers were able to measure the brain activity in real-time.

For the trial, 54 obese children and 22 lean children were included, they were each shown pictures of high-calorie foods and low-calorie foods and then fed the same meal. This was calculated as 33% of the weight-based estimated daily calorie intake for each child, so that they were all ‘equally full’. They were then showed the images again and provided with a buffet meal. It was found that before the meal, there was no significant difference in brain activity between the two groups; further to this, both groups had similar self-ratings of fullness after the meal. However, when shown the images again, the obese children showed more brain activation in the regions of satiety processing than the normal weight children. This suggests that obese children have a somewhat blunted satiety response that does not halt them from craving high-calorie foods. The researchers are hoping to repeat the experiment after providing a six-month behavioural weight loss program to the children, to examine what can be done to change their habits.

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