Skid Row in Los Angeles / Image-WikimediaCommons
A new study by Indian-origin researcher Arpana Gupta of the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine found that living in a disadvantaged neighborhood can have an effect on one's food choices, weight gain, and even the microstructure of the brain.
In low-income areas, researchers discovered a lack of healthy food options, an increase in the consumption of foods high in trans fatty acids, and almost no opportunities for exercise. Information processing in the brain, particularly in reward, emotion regulation, and cognition, is said to be disrupted by these factors.
“We found that neighbourhood disadvantage was associated with differences in the fine structure of the cortex of the brain. Some of these differences were linked to higher body mass index and correlated with high intake of the trans-fatty acids found in fried fast food,” said Gupta, PhD, co-director of the Goodman-Luskin Center, director of the Neuroimaging Core, and senior author of the study.
She added, “Our results suggest that regions of the brain involved in reward, emotion, and the acquisition of knowledge and understanding might be affected by aspects of neighbourhood disadvantage that contribute to obesity,” said Gupta, senior author. “This highlights the importance of addressing dietary quality issues in disadvantaged neighbourhoods to protect brain health.”
Previous research has shown that low-income areas can have negative effects on brain health, and a more recent study looked specifically at the cortex of the brain to see how these effects can be felt in different parts of the brain. The area deprivation index (ADI) was calculated using demographic and BMI data from 92 participants, mostly women, living in the greater Los Angeles area.