A Mexican-French research explores the cognitive performance in adulthood of individuals who were exposed to an obesogenic environment during adolescence.

In recent years, the medical term ‘metabolic syndrome has become popular beyond the scientific community, which describes a dangerous combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. However, in the last five years different studies have suggested that this metabolic state also affects cognitive performance, i.e. humans’ information processing capability.

Now researchers at the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM) lead a scientific project involving French and Mexican specialists, which overall objective is documenting for the first time the effect of obesity on cognitive performance of adolescents.

Dr. Gustavo Pacheco Lopez, professor and researcher at the UAM Department of Sciences and who heads the Mexican-French research team, said that preliminary results of experimental models indicate that laboratory rodents that were subjected to a high calorie diet during a stage comparable to childhood-adolescence in humans developed cognitive deficit in adulthood, even without being overweight or obese.

The following was exposing adult rats to the same diet, and it was found that they did not develop cognitive problems. In short, adolescence is a sensitive period in the neuro-development regarding the effects of diet, especially those high in fat,” Dr. Pacheco Lopez said.

He also said that based on their research so far, brain damage appear to be reversible. However, it is fundamental to take preventive measures as soon as possible in children and adolescents. “If we have been exposed to high calorie diets, it is best to stop now,” he stressed.

The project called OBETEEN (for: obesity in teenagers) involves three objectives. The first one is to determine the impact of obesity in teenage humans in both countries, Mexico and France; concerning their functional connectivity between the hippocampus and amygdala, taking as a starting point the hypothesis that exposure to a high fat diet may have a negative impact on cognitive performance. The second objective is to find the mechanisms of how high-fat diets may affect cognitive performance, using experimental rodents. And the third one is to find a way to demonstrate the potential restorative and therapeutic effect of exercise to counter the negative result of high fat diets in cognitive performance.

Neuroscientist Lopez Pacheco explained that the term ‘cognitive performance’ should not be confused with intelligence. “It has to do with how long an individual can keep information in the short-term memory; how long it takes this person to remember this information and learn it.”

OBETEEN is funded by the National Science and Technology Council (CONACYT) in Mexico, and its French counterpart L’Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR).


Source: La Jornada