At times, I tend to over analyze the idea that we are our synapses as I walk around and consider that every passing moment is making some change within my brain. We constantly interact with our environment both during arousal and sleep, and this interaction causes a ceaseless dynamic current within our minds. Fortunately, the way in which our brain changes provides some sort of continuity from moment to moment in terms of our personalities, but if I look at myself even two years ago, I notice radical changes in myself. However, the way my brain changes is not solely the product of my interaction with the environment, but also my mother’s and possibly my fathers. Currently, the rise in obesity has led to many children developing in a malnourished over-energy-enriched womb which has lasting consequences for their brain development. Not only does it increase the likelihood of childhood obesity, but behavioral disorders such as ADHD have also been correlated with children from obese parents.
The rise in obesity has links to the increased consumption of processed foods. These processed foods contain all sorts of chemicals and preservatives which may impact pre-natal development, but they are also energy rich in all of the wrong ways. This high-energy pre-natal marinade affects brain development and has lasting consequences for the child’s plasticity from which they are likely to suffer for their entire lives. Unfortunately, this perpetuates the problem as obese people tend to have obese children who tend to have obese children.
At SfN, I attended a social issues forum concerning the obesity epidemic in the U.S. The last speaker, a Dr. Krog, gave a very stimulating lecture as to the ways in which people become obese, as well as surgical procedures he uses to curb obesity. The results of these surgical procedures were quite remarkable. Children born to obese parents had a host of problems from diabetes to behavioral disorders, but when the same mother gave birth to a child after losing weight and watching their diet, those problems almost disappeared. I am not suggesting that all obese people undergo surgery, but Dr. Krog proposed an interesting idea.
Obesity has clear links to SES, and often low-income families cannot afford the proper nutrition needed for healthy pre-natal environment. Dr. Krog proposed a system by which people using food stamps could get their food directly from clinics which would provide frequent check-ups as to the health of the mother and consequently expected child. If this program were put into place, obesity in children would begin to decline and the future economic burden caused by obese people on healthcare each year (100 Billion Dollars on average) would also begin to decline.
Because the immediate economic incentive for such a project does not exist, policy makers do not address the issue given the current state of the economy. However, foresight predicts that if the obesity problem continues to rise, the burden on the economy for healthcare is going to be much greater in just a short amount of time. It is time to start considering options to alleviate this growing problem and no longer be the fattest country in the world.