Brain Development Link to Obesity and Heart Disease

February 6, 2008 | Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

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 Brain Development Link to Obesity and Heart Disease
The latest finding in a considerable body of evolving knowledge shows that poor development of leptin-related brain circuitry while in the womb is one common cause of later-life obesity. This means that the health of a mother prior to and during pregnancy has a huge bearing on that child's future health, including the risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Individuals who have this developmental weakness (which is no fault of their own) have little or no margin for error in how they live their life, unless they wish to place themselves on the fast track of accelerated aging and early onset of the diseases of aging.

While in the womb and during the first few weeks of life significant nerve development takes place that programs appetite signals involving leptin – the commander and chief for calorie burning. New research shows that faulty development of this leptin brain circuitry sets the stage for later life obesity. This developmental brain weakness may not be an issue until “tested” later in life by over-consumption of food. Once it “kicks in” it is thereafter a problem of some magnitude.

This is different than a genetic predisposition to obesity. This is obesity that is programmed in to the evolving “hardware” of the biological computer (brain). There are several reasons for this:
1) Malnutrition or over-consumption of junk food during pregnancy.
2) An overweight woman getting pregnant.
3) Not getting the first milk colostrum through breastfeeding within 12 hours of delivery.

Malnutrition or junk food nutrition during pregnancy, as well as being overweight entering pregnancy, are reflective of leptin problems in the mother that are superimposed over the developing nervous system of the child. Those babies at the highest risk are born prematurely or whose mothers experience gestational diabetes, toxemia, or high blood pressure during pregnancy. Once born, first milk colostrum writes a message on the subconscious brain's chalkboard – finalizing leptin appetite circuitry that will be used for a lifetime. Not getting that first feeding is another problem.

Along with the brain wiring issue, poor nutrition may lead to non-optimal formation of the kidneys while in the womb – a weakness that leads to high blood pressure later in life, especially when combined with obesity. This means that a bad dealing of the nutritional deck, through several mechanisms, increases the likelihood of factors that cause heart disease.

On the preventive side women of childbearing years have a duty and responsibility to be healthy, maintain proper body weight, and take care of themselves during and following pregnancy. In the millions of Americans born into a non optimal situation, following the Leptin Diet is mandatory and the use of dietary supplements to assist optimal leptin function is highly recommended.

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