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BMJ Open 1:e000175 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000175
  • Neurology
    • Research

Obesity, orbitofrontal structure and function are associated with food choice: a cross-sectional study

  1. Antonio Convit1,2,3
  1. 1Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA
  2. 2Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, New York, USA
  3. 3Department of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Antonio Convit; antonio.convit{at}med.nyu.edu
  • Received 12 May 2011
  • Accepted 4 August 2011
  • Published 6 September 2011

Abstract

Objectives Obesity is on the rise in the US and is linked to the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Emerging evidence over the last decade suggests that obesity may also adversely affect executive function and brain structure. Although a great deal of research focuses on how diet affects the brain and cognitive performance, no study focuses on how food choice may be associated with brain integrity. Here we investigated how lean and overweight/obese (o/o) adults differed in their food choices and how brain structure and cognition may be associated with those choices.

Design As part of an ongoing study on diabetes and the brain, participants had routine blood work and a research MRI, received a battery of neurocognitive tests, and were instructed to keep a 3-day food diary.

Results and conclusions The lean group ate more high quality foods and less low quality foods compared to the o/o group. In the o/o group, high quality food choices were associated with orbitofrontal cortex volume. The lean group performed better than the o/o group on neurocognitive measures of executive function, such as the Stroop Interference Test, the Wisconsin Card Sort Test and the Trail Making Test B-A, and on attention and concentration tasks such as the Digit Symbol Substitution Test. Taken together, these preliminary data suggest that in obesity poor food choices may be associated with frontal cognitive impairments that may be the result of, or contribute to, decreases in orbitofrontal cortex volume. Therefore, longitudinal studies are warranted to investigate a causal link between food choice and executive functioning.

Footnotes

  • Correction notice The “To cite: …” information and running footer in this article have been updated with the correct volume number (volume 1).

  • To cite: Cohen JI, Yates KF, Duong M, et al. Obesity, orbitofrontal structure and function are associated with food choice: a cross-sectional study. BMJ Open 2011;1:e000175. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000175

  • Funding This study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (DK064087 to AC and T32-DA007254-16 to JIC) and supported in part by grant 1UL1RR029893 from the National Center for Research Resources.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by NYU School of Medicine IRB.

  • Contributors JIC contributed to analysis and interpretation of data, and drafting and revising of the article, and gave final approval. KFY contributed to data analysis, and drafting and revising of the article, and gave final approval. MD contributed to drafting and revising of the article and interpretation of the data, and gave final approval. AC contributed to drafting and revising of the article, the concept and design of the parent study, and gave final approval.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/ and http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode.

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