University of Miami researchers implemented a 2-year multidimensional obesity intervention that included food service personnel, teachers, parents, community-based nutrition educators, and the children. They found that in the children who receive school-provided lunches that more students who received the intervention stayed within the healthy body mass index (p=.02) AND improved their math performance (p<.001) in comparison to student who did not receive the intervention.
While the researchers could not identify exactly why the academic scores improved, their results suggest that improving nutrition may be an investment with returns in many areas. It seems that the First Lady and her efforts to reduce and prevent obesity may do more than just improve the health of our nation. It may also represent a much needed adjustment to the education system as well!
The body-mind connection will not be denied!
Obesity (which currently affects about 26% of the world’s population) is associated with a wide range of health problems. Obese individuals are more likely to develop:
-Heart disease and stroke
-High blood pressure
-Gallbladder disease and gallstones
-Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea and asthma
-A generally poorer quality of life
and we can now add to that list: SMALLER BRAIN.
Researchers at UCLA Neurology have found a correlation between body mass index and brain weight. Their findings indicate that individuals who are obese tend to have smaller and lighter brains (6% smaller).
The most pronounced differences were observed in the prefrontal cortex (executive region of the brain, responsible for cognition (planning, decision making, etc)), and the parts of the brain that support memory, such as the hippocampus. The differences in brain mass and size made the brains of obese individuals look 16 years old than those of healthy weight. The researchers believe that these differences put obese individuals at a much higher risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia and reduced cognitive abilities.
However, some researchers are skeptical; suggesting that this may be a chicken or egg situation. Some of the brain areas that were found smaller in the obese also control aspects of eating and metabolism. They suggest that shrinkage in these brain areas may lead to obesity, rather than the other way around.
Regardless, the number of health risks associated with obesity are significant. Solution? As always, proper diet and exercise.