Understanding the unique nature of children's bodies and brains

With the increase in childhood obesity and the associated increase in type 2 diabetes among children and adolescents, there is growing interest in how children's bodies process the foods they eat and how obesity and diabetes begin to develop at early ages. Two studies presented at the American Diabetes Association's 74th Scientific Sessions help to shed light on this topic.

One study, by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine, compared how the brains of adolescents and adults differed in their response to ingestion of a glucose drink. It found that in adolescents, glucose increased the blood flow in the regions of the brain implicated in reward-motivation and decision-making, whereas in adults, it decreased the in these regions.

"While we cannot speculate directly about how glucose ingestion may influence behavior, certainly we have shown that there are differences in how adults and adolescents respond to glucose," said lead researcher Ania Jastreboff, MD, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine. "This is important because adolescents are the highest consumers of dietary added sugars. This is just the first step in understanding what is happening in the adolescent brain in response to consumption of sugary drinks. Ultimately, it will be important to investigate whether such exposure to sugar during adolescence impacts food and drink consumption, and whether it relates to the development of obesity."

Another study, by researchers in Germany at the University Children's Hospital in Leipzig, compared fat cell composition and biology in lean and obese children and . They found that when children become obese, beginning as early as age six, there was an increase in the number of adipose cells, and that they are larger in size than the cells found in the bodies of lean children. The researchers also found evidence of dysfunction of the fat cells of obese children, including signs of inflammation, which can lead to insulin resistance, diabetes and other problems, such as .

"Our research shows that start to have not only more but also larger adipocytes, or , at a very young age and that this is associated with increased inflammation and is linked to impaired metabolic function," said lead researcher Antje Körner, MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Pediatric Researcher at the Pediatric Research Center, University Children's Hospital, Leipzig. "What we were interested in was seeing whether something was already going on with the adipose tissue itself if the children become obese at an early age, and it appears that there is. It's important because this can contribute to the development of comorbidities of obesity in children, such as diabetes."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Helping babies survive

23 hours ago

A healthy baby is born in the Haydom Lutheran Hospital in Tanzania. She is given the name Precious and her proud mother is ready to take her back to the village. Many children born in the same hospital, or ...

Unstable child care can affect children by age four

Nov 20, 2014

A new study from UNC's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) reveals that disruptions in child care negatively affect children's social development as early as age 4. However, the study also ...

Parental involvement still essential in secondary school

Nov 20, 2014

Although students become more independent as they rise through grade levels and parent-teacher interactions typically lessen as students age, parental involvement in a child's education during the secondary ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.