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Mindfulness May Help To Prevent Obesity In Children

Update Date: Jan 24, 2016 06:44 PM EST

Even as obesity among children rises dramatically, scientists find that mindfulness is a good way of treating as well as preventing it.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University discovered that through enhanced awareness of their thoughts and actions, the imbalance between brain connections can be repaired, even as children reduce their unhealthy eating habits.

"Adults and especially children are primed towards eating more," Dr. Kevin Niswender, a researcher at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said in a news release. "This is great from an evolutionary perspective -- they need food to grow and survive. But in today's world, full of readily available, highly advertised, energy dense foods, it is putting children at risk of obesity."

Researchers examined the MRIs of 38 children between 8 and 13, who were relaxing. They measured the links between brain areas associated with inhibition, impulsivity, reward, and then also probed the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and eating behaviors. The links were also assessed by the Child Eating Behavior Questionnaire.

Even as impulsivity-biased imbalances in the brain rise, food approach behaviors also rise even as avoidance behaviors reduce. The physical and psychological factors involved suggest that mindfulness might support the efforts to change eating habits even as the physical activity could help to boost self-control.

"We think mindfulness could recalibrate the imbalance in the brain connections associated with childhood obesity," said Dr. Ronald Cowan, of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "Mindfulness has produced mixed results in adults, but so far there have been few studies showing its effectiveness for weight loss in children."

The study is published in the journal Heliyon.

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