Impulsivity-based thrifty eating phenotype and the protective role of n-3 PUFAs intake in adolescents
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The goal of the present study was to investigate whether intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) affects brain responses to palatable foods and whether docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that is a primary structural component of the human brain) serum levels moderate the association between IUGR and brain and behavioral responses to palatable foods. Brain responses to palatable foods were investigated using a functional magnetic resonance imaging task in which participants were shown palatable foods, neutral foods and non-food items. Serum DHA was quantified in blood samples, and birth weight ratio (BWR) was used as a proxy for IUGR. The Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire (DEBQ) was used to evaluate eating behaviors. In the contrast palatable food > neutral items, we found an activation in the right superior frontal gyrus with BWR as the most important predictor; the lower the BWR (indicative of IUGR), the greater the activation of this region involved in impulse control/decision making facing the viewing of palatable food pictures versus neutral items. At the behavioral level, a general linear model predicting external eating using the DEBQ showed a significant interaction between DHA and IUGR status; in IUGR individuals, the higher the serum DHA, the lower is external eating. In conclusion, we suggest that IUGR moderates brain responses when facing stimuli related to palatable foods, activating an area related to impulse control. Moreover, higher intake of n-3 PUFAs can protect IUGR individuals from developing inappropriate eating behaviors, the putative mechanism of protection would involve decreasing intake in response to external food cues in adolescents/young adults.
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