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Vanderbilt Study Suggests Training Children’s Brains Early Could Prevent Obesity

brainTo say that the brain is one of the most powerful tools we as humans have available is an oversimplification. However, scientific evidence regarding the mind-body connection has been slow to support what most people consider as an accepted truth. Now, a recent study conducted by Vanderbilt researchers and published in the journal Heliyo suggests that specific mindfulness can reduce a child’s chances of becoming obese.

Mindfulness is essentially a person’s ability to focus on and pay attention to purpose and stay in the present moment. How does that affect weight? Experts say that long-term wight loss can be especially difficult because you literally have to change the way your brain works. If the brain is used to eating (or not eating) certain things and not exercising, the mental hurdles can be just as difficult to tackle as the physical ones, if not more so.

“We know the brain plays a big role in obesity in adults, but what we understand about the neurological connections associated with obesity might not apply to children,” the study’s lead author, BettyAnn Chodkowski, explained. “We wanted to look at the way children’s brains function in more detail so we can better understand what is happening neurologically in children who are obese.”

Nationally, the childhood obesity rate is 18.5%. Previous studies and research into mindfulness have found that it can actually increase inhibition and decrease impulsiveness. Imbalances in the connection in the brain have been found to have a big impact on eating disorders and obesity overall.

By identifying and correcting these imbalances early on, through a non-invasive approach like mindfulness, parents and physicians could help at-risk children change much more effectively than any kind of physical weight loss program ever could.

According to PsychCentral.com, the researchers looked at 38 children ages eight to 13 from data collected by the Enhanced Nathan Kline Institute, as well as MRI scans. In total, there are over 30 million MRI scans performed annually in the U.S., to study the functions of the brain.

“We think mindfulness could recalibrate the imbalance in the brain connections associated with childhood obesity,” said Dr. Cowan, from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

In related news, a joint study by multiple organizations that looked at over a million New York City school children found that implementing cold water dispensers in schools has a positive impact on childhood obesity.