“There are huge numbers of people out there who have problems with their weight,” study co-author Dr. Antonio Convit, professor of psychiatry and medicine at NYU School of Medicine, said in a statement. “As yet, there has been very little information available about what happens to the brain in the setting of obesity and metabolic syndrome in children.”
Previous studies have linked metabolic syndrome to brain impairments in adults. But it’s unclear whether those deficits are related to the syndrome itself or to cardiovascular disease-related changes in blood flow.
This study, however, provides evidence that metabolic syndrome alone may worsen brain function, since adolescents do not have the same vascular problems that obese adults develop over time.
The study authors hope the results will motivate families to change their lifestyles for the better.
“Although obesity may not be enough to stir clinicians or even parents into action, these results among youth with metabolic syndrome strongly argue for an early and comprehensive intervention,” they wrote.