A recent research study proposes a link between brain energy expenditure and weight gain among children. A paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reports, half of the children’s energy is used by the brain. This energy demand of the brain is alleged as a reason for obesity risk during early childhood.
The researchers believe that the timing, intensity, and duration of energy use influences energy expenditure and weight gain. According to co-author Christopher Kuzawa, kid’s brains use almost half of their bodies’ energy at the age of five. “And yet, we have no idea how much the brain’s energy expenditure varies between kids. This is a huge hole in our understanding of energy expenditure.” Kuzawa is a professor of anthropology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a faculty fellow with the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern.
The study is designed to understand the usage of the brain’s energy in child development and to comprehend its connection to weight gain and obesity risk. Scientists also speculate if programs designed to enrich brain development in children could ultimately also influence the brain’s pattern of energy use. Moreover, research in increased brain energy expenditure can also be beneficial for future studies.
The research also highlights that the brain consumes two-thirds of the body’s resting energy expenditure. Moreover, the study also emphasizes the ages when the brain’s energy increases during childhood and also the ages when there is a decline in weight gain. According to scientists, as the energy needed for brain development is less among older children and adolescents, the weight increases simultaneously.
“This finding helped confirm a long-standing hypothesis in anthropology that human children evolved a much slower rate of childhood growth compared to other mammals and primates in part because their brains required more energy to develop,” adds Kuzawa.