New research from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Tennessee, suggests that mindfulness training may help reduce childhood obesity.
A French NutriNet-Santé study from December 2015 showed that regular meditation could reduce the risk of obesity by 50 percent.
Now, American researchers suggest that a form of meditation known as mindfulness could play a role in the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity.
Doctors Ronald Cowan and Kevin Niswender found that obese children's brains function in a different way to those of healthy-weight children. This can in turn lead them to eat more.
Obesity and poor eating habits may be linked to an imbalance in the brain connections controlling impulses and inhibition.
As a result, the researchers consider that mindfulness could be a useful tool when tackling obesity, as it may help rebalance brain function.
The study looked at 38 children aged eight to 13 years old. Five of them were diagnosed as obese and six others as overweight. Data was collected on their weight and eating habits, and MRI scans were used to assess brain function in three particular regions of the brain.
The results showed that the part of the brain associated with impulsive behavior was more strongly connected than the part associated with inhibition in children whose behavior made them eat more.
The exact opposite was found in children who were able to avoid food. Here, the part linked to inhibition was more strongly connected than the part linked to impulse.
The researchers suggest that following regular mindfulness training could help children who regularly overeat to change their behavior towards food and rebalance the brain connections associated with obesity.