Posted on Sep 19, 2023, 8 p.m.
You are what you eat, but it is not just the body that is affected, and according to a study published in Communications Medicine, living in a disadvantaged neighborhood affects those food choices, weight gain, and the microstructure of the brain.
The study found that poor quality of available foods, the increased intake of calories from foods that are high in trans-fatty acids, and environments that do not promote physical activity, which is more prevalent in disadvantaged communities, disrupt the flexibility of information processing in the cortex- the brain region involved with reward, emotion regulation, and cognition.
"We found that neighborhood disadvantage was associated with differences in the fine structure of the cortex of the brain. Some of these differences were linked to higher body mass index and correlated with high intake of the trans-fatty acids found in fried fast food," said Arpana Gupta, Ph.D., co-director of the Goodman-Luskin Center and Director of the Neuroimaging Core.
"Our results suggest that regions of the brain involved in reward, emotion, and the acquisition of knowledge and understanding might be affected by aspects of neighborhood disadvantage that contribute to obesity," said Gupta, senior author. "This highlights the importance of addressing dietary quality issues in disadvantaged neighborhoods to protect brain health."
"Different populations of cells exist in different layers of the cortex, where there are different signaling mechanisms and information-processing functions," said Lisa Kilpatrick, Ph.D., a researcher in the Goodman-Luskin Microbiome Center focusing on brain signatures related to brain-body dysregulation, the study's first author. "Examining the microstructure at different cortical levels provides a better understanding of alterations in cell populations, processes, and communication routes that may be affected by living in a disadvantaged neighborhood."
This study included 92 participants from the greater Los Angeles area who underwent two types of MRI scans that when analyzed in combination provide insight into brain structure, signaling, and functioning. Neighborhood disadvantage was assessed as to its area deprivation index (ADI) using the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine's Public Health's Neighborhood Atlas. Focusing on the relationship between ADI and neuroimaging results at 4 levels of the cortex to investigate in detail the connections between community disadvantage and brain structure.
According to the researchers, worse ADI ratings were associated with communication changes in the brain regions important to social interaction, and other changes that occurred involved reward, emotion regulation, and higher cognitive processes. Additionally, these changes appeared to be affected by higher trans fatty acid intake. When taken together the findings suggest that factors more common in disadvantaged communities that encourage poor diet and unhealthy weight gain "disrupt the flexibility of information processing involved in reward, emotion regulation, and cognition."
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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