Mindfulness to Combat Childhood Obesity, and Other News

Little girl meditating outsideMindfulness, which encourages people to notice their thoughts and feelings from a distance in the moment, may be an effective tool against childhood obesity. Researchers from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine say the practice may improve impulse control in children at a higher risk for weight problems.

To test their hypothesis, researchers worked with 38 children ages 8 to 13. Six of the children were medically classified as overweight, and five were obese. The remaining 27 were within a healthy weight range. Researchers recorded each child’s weight, then gave them a questionnaire about eating behaviors. They then used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to look at brain activity in regions that may affect eating habits: the nucleus accumbens, which plays a role in reward; the frontal pole, which is linked to impulse control; and the inferior parietal lobe, which is associated with inhibition.

Children who were obese or overweight had stronger connections in the frontal pole, indicating that weight issues might be tied to impulsivity. But children whose questionnaires showed the healthiest eating habits had stronger brain connections in the inferior parietal lobe, suggesting they were more able to inhibit cravings.

Researchers say these brain scans point to a role for mindfulness in curbing childhood obesity. By teaching children to be more mindful of their thoughts and feelings, children may be able to build resilience and control impulsive eating habits, therefore reducing their risk of obesity.

Parental Debt May Affect Kids’ Behavior

Parental debt may affect children’s behavior, and the type of debt parents accrue matters. Borrowed money designed to improve quality of life, such as student loans and mortgage debt, tend to produce better outcomes in children. But debt that produces high stress and high interest, such as credit card debt, can have a negative effect on children’s behavior.

High Fish Consumption in Pregnancy Tied to Brain Benefits for Kids

A survey that followed 2,000 pairs of mothers and their children suggests eating three servings of fish per week while pregnant can improve children’s brain function up to age 5, the point at which researchers stopped following the children. Traditional recommendations encourage women to eat small quantities of fish, but to steer clear of high-mercury fish, such as tilefish, shark, and swordfish. But the latest research found benefits even among children whose mothers consumed fish with relatively high quantities of mercury.

Catching Up on Lost Sleep Really May Reverse a Few Restless Nights

In the past, experts have suggested a person cannot catch up on lost sleep, but a new study suggests otherwise. Researchers found that two days of “make-up sleep” could reverse the metabolic damage of short-term sleep deprivation. The researchers caution this was only a short-term study, so the results may not provide a complete picture. Further research is necessary to determine if chronic sleep deprivation can be reversed with make-up sleep.

Diagnosing Depression Before It Starts

An MIT and Harvard Medical School brain imaging study suggests children at risk for depression may display brain differences well before they exhibit symptoms. Researchers compared 27 high-risk children to 16 with no family history of depression. A number of patterns emerged in the brains of children at risk for depression, including excessively active connections in the amygdala, a brain region associated with processing emotion.

Breast Concerns May Sideline Many Teen Girls From Sports

A study of more than 2,000 girls ages 11 to 17 suggests shame, embarrassment, and other concerns about their breasts may keep some girls out of sports. Seventy-five percent of participants expressed at least one concern about their breasts, including sport-related pain or embarrassment. These fears typically peaked around age 14. Half of the girls reported never wearing a sports bra, and only 10% wore a sports bra when exercising. Few knew how to choose a sports bra, and almost 90% said they wanted to learn more about breast health.

What’s in Your Genes? Some Companies Analyzing Your DNA Rely on Junk Science

Genetic analysis companies promise consumers information about their ancestry and future health, but many of these companies rely on discredited or misleading science. One issue is that inaccurate press coverage of scientific studies often suggests a single gene can control a single behavior or health issue. In most cases, a number of genes affect the same behaviors, and there is not a clear correlation between having a specific gene and exhibiting a specific behavior or symptom.

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  • Amy

    January 23rd, 2016 at 12:49 PM

    Mindfulness as an exercise to fight childhood obesity is excellent! This is one of those brilliant teaching tools where both the child actively participates in improving their own health which I feel is so much a part of the solution to begin with.

  • Makayla

    January 25th, 2016 at 8:52 AM

    fish while pregnant good but then don’t you have to watch out for certain kinds?

  • Ron

    January 25th, 2016 at 2:58 PM

    I would love to think that it was possible to diagnose those who are going to be predispositioned to being depressed far in advance. I think that my biggest fear would be that you would the tell someone that they are likely to become depressed and by the magical power of suggestion, this is exactly what then happens to them. How do you know if it is because of their brain chemistry or because they were told that this would happen?

  • sullivan

    January 26th, 2016 at 10:47 AM

    Are gym teachers supposed to address these issues with the girls? I think that they would get into trouble with that

  • brian

    January 26th, 2016 at 3:48 PM

    I have a lot of debt but it’s not like I talk about it in front of the kids and stuff. So yeah if you are always fighting in front of them about money ad stuff then I can see how this would affect them but if they don’t know about it then how is this going to hurt them?

  • Benita

    January 28th, 2016 at 8:19 AM

    I am not one who likes to go without sleep, whether there is the promise of making it up at a later time or not. If I don’t get my 8 hours, then I am pretty much useless the rest of the day. I don’t want to have a deficit all week and then try to make it up on the weekends. Not gonna happen for me.

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