Africa-Press – Namibia. The new research echoes previous findings that suggested people living in low-income, ‘disadvantaged’ neighborhoods are at higher risk of obesity because of the lower quality of food available, besides other factors. This, in turn, could affect one’s brain, resulting in cognitive issues.
Living in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods may have profound effects on one’s life – ranging from making poor choices when it comes to eating to the microstructure of the brain, according to a new study.
Such factors as a diet rich in trans-fatty acids, and an environment that is not geared to promote physical activity, combine to play havoc with the “flexibility of information processing in the brain”, research from the University of California: Los Angeles (UCLA) David Geffen School of Medicine warned.
Certain areas of the brain involved in the regulation of emotions, cognition, etc, change over time as a result of living in a disadvantaged neighborhood, the team of researchers discovered after carrying out a thorough analysis of the brain’s cortex. The results of the study were published in the ‘Communications Medicine’ journal.
The study involved 92 participants (27 men and 65 women) from the greater Los Angeles area. Neighborhood disadvantage was assessed according to the Area Deprivation Index (ADI) compiled by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine’s Public Health’s Neighborhood Atlas. Area deprivation was defined in the study as a combination of factors such as “a low median income, low education level, crowded residence environment, and lack of comprehensive plumbing”.
Researchers investigated the links between ADI and neuroimaging results at four levels of the brain cortex, with study participants undergoing two specific types of MRI scan that were subsequently scrutinized.
Lower ADI ratings were linked with communication changes in brain regions that are important for social interaction, the study found. Trans-fatty acid intake from poor eating habits appeared to affect other regions of the brain as well, affecting cognitive processes and the regulation of emotions.
Specifically, the research appeared to indicate 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,” added Gupta.
Previous research revealed that excess weight, as a result of poor eating habits, could affect brain functions, such as memory, and mental health. Obesity has been proved to reduce blood flow to the brain in a 2020 study that involved brain scans of more than 17,000 people. It was slower blood flow to the brain that was also linked to overall cognitive decline and even dementia.