Obesity should be considered a brain disorder like autism or ADHD, American doctors sensationally claim
Obesity should be considered a brain disorder like autism or ADHD, doctors say
- Occurs due to brain developments that occur in childhood, study found
- Preventing this could stop the ‘global obesity epidemic,’ researchers said
- Mouse study found that infant brains are sensitive to subsequent weight regulation
Obesity should be classified as a brain development disorder, doctors say.
That would put it in the same class as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Asperger’s syndrome.
They made the recommendation after a study indicated that obesity was caused in part by changes in the brain during childhood.
Obesity is now considered a behavioral disease: a pattern of destructive choices people make that harm their health.
But Dr. Harry MacKay, of Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, said rethinking this could be “the key to stopping the global obesity epidemic.”
The number of Americans who are obese has been growing for decades, with four in 10 now medically too fat. In the UK, it’s around 30 percent.
President Joe Biden yesterday announced his plan for the biggest campaign against obesity in 50 years.
Includes mandatory nutrition labeling on the front of food products to highlight snacks that are too fatty, sugary or salty.
And the criteria for food manufacturers to market their products as ‘healthy’ will also be tightened under the new plans.
Obesity can cause heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in both the US and the UK. The study found that changes in the brain that lead to obesity occur earlier in women than in men.
The new study in mice looked at epigenetics, the brain’s developmental system that determines which genes will and will not be used in different types of cells.
The Texas researchers found that a part of the brain, called the arcuate nucleus, undergoes many epigenetic changes in early childhood.
During this time, the brains are also particularly sensitive to programming that will then determine how well body weight can be regulated.
This means that people could gain weight later in life if changes in the arcuate nucleus go awry during childhood, the researchers said.
When the researchers compared the areas of the brain where the changes occur in mice and humans, they were surprised to find that the location in rodents overlapped with the part in people associated with obesity.
The researchers also found that these changes occur earlier in women than in men.
Writing in the study, Dr. MacKay said: “We believe that public health interventions to curb the global obesity epidemic would benefit from viewing obesity as a neurodevelopmental disorder.”
Experts have called for more research on the role of epigenetics and the development of obesity.
It is hoped that this may open the door to new ways of detecting and treating the disease.
The findings were published in the journal Advancement of science.
OBESITY: WHAT IS THE MEDICAL DEFINITION?
Obesity is defined as an adult having a BMI of 30 or more.
The BMI of a healthy person – which is calculated by dividing the weight in kg by the height in meters, and the result again by the height – is between 18.5 and 24.9.
Among children, obesity is defined as being in the 95th percentile.
Percentiles compare young people with others of the same age.
For example, if a three-month-old is in the 40th percentile for weight, that means that 40 percent of three-month-olds weigh the same or less than that baby.
About two out of every five men and women in the US are obese.
The condition costs the US healthcare system about $173 billion a year.
This is because obesity increases a person’s risk of a number of life-threatening conditions.
Such conditions include type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness, and even limb amputations.
Obesity also increases the risk of heart disease, which kills 647,000 people each year in the US, making it the leading cause of death.
Carrying dangerous amounts of weight has also been linked to 12 different types of cancer.
This includes the breast, which affects one in eight women at some point in her life.
Among children, research suggests that 70 percent of obese youth have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, putting them at risk for heart disease.
Obese children are also much more likely to become obese adults.
And if children are overweight, their adult obesity is often more severe.
One in five children starts school in the US overweight or obese.