Dec 08, 2016 | Updated: 09:37 AM EST

Mindfulness May Intervene Childhood Obesity, Study Claims

Jan 25, 2016 09:37 AM EST

A new study reveals that mindfulness, or the ability to focus on a directed goal, in children can help prevent obesity as it helps them control overeating impulses. The research suggests that there is a balance in brain network between obese and normal weight children, making them more likely to overeat.

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Venderbilt University School of Medicine researchers believe that mindfulness can increase inhibition and decrease impulsivity. "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," lead author BettyAnn Chodkowski said.

According to the researchers, there are three parts of the brain that might be responsible for weight and eating habits. Inferior parietal lobe plays a role with inhibition, or capability to veto automatic response (eating), the frontal lobe with impulsivity, and the nucleus accumbens with reward.

The scientists utilized data gathered by the Enhanced Nathan Kline Institute. They enrolled 38 children aged between 8 and 13 years, categorized under obese and whose eating habits noted in a questionnaire (Child Eating Behavior Questionnaire). Five of the children were under the obese category, while are six overweight. Then MRI scans assessed the functions of the key three regions of the brain.

Results revealed an initial association between eating behavior, weight and brain function's balance. In obese children, results revealed that the frontal lobe (impulsive region) appears more strongly connected than that of the inferior parietal lobe (inhibition region). And the results say otherwise in children with normal weight.

Thus, researchers highly believe that mindfulness can help prevent obesity in childhood by increasing inhibition and decreasing impulsivity. Ronald Cowan, study author, believes that the meditation technique can potentially recalibrate the imbalance in the brain connections.

Although there are only a handful of studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness in children, the meditation technique has already produced mixed results in adults.

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