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Obesity Might Lower Teens' Thinking Skills, Study Suggests
Date:9/3/2012

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Sept. 3 (HealthDay News) -- As the childhood obesity epidemic continues in the United States, more kids are developing an array of heart risk factors linked to obesity known as the "metabolic syndrome."

Now, a study suggests that these obesity-linked changes may be affecting kids' minds as well as their bodies.

The new study finds that adolescents with these conditions -- which include abdominal obesity, unhealthy cholesterol/trigylceride levels and high blood pressure -- are more likely to perform more poorly on tests of mental ability compared to their healthy peers.

MRI scans also showed certain worrisome differences in brain structure among children with the metabolic syndrome, the researchers said.

According to study lead author Dr. Antonio Convit, until recently it's been thought that "the bad things that can happen among kids with metabolic syndrome are 20 years in the future. But, this work demonstrates that these health issues are having a deleterious impact on a kid's brain now. Today."

Convit is a professor of psychiatry and medicine at the NYU Langone School of Medicine. He and his team published the findings online Sept. 3 and in the October print issue of Pediatrics.

The finding stems from U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded research that involved roughly 110 teens. A little under half of them had been diagnosed with at least three or more of the five specific health conditions that characterize metabolic syndrome: abdominal obesity, low good (HDL) cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and/or pre-diabetic levels of insulin resistance.

Previous research has shown such an association among adults, but this latest report suggests the effect on intellect from metabolic syndrome may occur more rapidly and at a much younger age than thought.

"It's also important to note that this was really a real-world
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