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How Living in a Low-Income Neighborhood Affects Brain Health and Food Choices: Study


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Living in Low-Income Neighborhoods Can Affect Brain Health and Food Choices

A recent study conducted by scientists at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California reveals that living in a low-income neighborhood can have detrimental effects on brain microstructure and influence food choices and weight gain.

Poor Food Quality and Increased Caloric Intake

The study, published in the journal Communications Medicine, highlights the poor quality of available food in low-income neighborhoods. It suggests that individuals in these areas tend to consume more calories from foods that contain a high percentage of trans fatty acids, commonly found in fried fast foods.

Impact on Brain Function

The study also found that living in a disadvantaged area can impair brain function related to reward, emotion regulation, and cognition. Physical activity, which is often limited in these areas, further affects information processing flexibility in the brain.

Examining Specific Brain Areas

Unlike previous studies, this research conducted a detailed analysis of the cerebral cortex to determine how living in a low-income neighborhood can impact specific brain areas. The researchers discovered that certain defects in these areas were associated with higher body mass index and increased intake of trans fatty acids.

The Importance of Addressing Nutritional Quality

Dr. Arpana Gupta, co-director of the Goodman-Luskin Microbiome Focus Center and director of the Center for Neuroimaging, emphasizes the significance of addressing nutritional quality in disadvantaged areas to protect brain health. The study suggests that aspects of neighborhood deprivation can affect brain regions involved in emotion, knowledge acquisition, and understanding.

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Factors Contributing to Neighborhood Quality

Neighborhood quality is determined by a combination of factors, including low average income, education level, and overcrowding.

Study Details

The study included 92 participants from Los Angeles, consisting of 27 men and 65 women. Demographic data, body mass index, and neighborhood disadvantage were assessed using the Area Deprivation Index (ADI).

Linking Adverse Living Conditions to Brain Structure

To explore the links between adverse living conditions and brain structure, researchers focused on the relationship between the Area Deprivation Index (ADI) and neuroimaging findings in different levels of the cerebral cortex. Participants underwent two types of MRI scans to gain insights into the structure, signaling, and function of the brain.

Effects on Social Interaction and Higher Cognitive Processes

The results revealed that worse Area Deprivation Index (ADI) scores were associated with changes in connectivity in brain regions crucial for social interaction. Additionally, areas associated with reward, emotion regulation, and higher cognitive processes were also affected, particularly influenced by trans fatty acid intake.

Overall, the study suggests that common factors in deprived areas, such as poor diet and limited physical activity, impair information processing related to reward, emotion regulation, and cognition.

Source: Medical Express

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