Metabolic Syndrome Affects Teens' Cognitive Performance

Evidence points to changes in the brain's structural integrity in adolescents with metabolic syndrome

TUESDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News) -- There is evidence for lower cognitive performance and changes in the brain's structural integrity among adolescents with metabolic syndrome (MetS), according to a study published online Sept. 3 in Pediatrics.

Po Lai Yau, Ph.D., from New York University in New York City, and colleagues conducted endocrine, magnetic resonance imaging, and neuropsychological assessments in 49 and 62 adolescents with and without MetS, respectively, who were matched for age, socioeconomic status, school grade, gender, and ethnicity.

The researchers found that adolescents with MetS exhibited a trend for lower overall intelligence, as well as significantly lower academic achievement (arithmetic and spelling), measures of attention, and mental flexibility. In a MetS-dose-related manner they also had increased brain cerebrospinal fluid, smaller hippocampal volumes, and reductions of microstructural integrity in major white matter tracts.

"We document lower cognitive performance and reductions in brain structural integrity among adolescents with MetS, thus suggesting that even relatively short-term impairments in metabolism, in the absence of clinically manifest vascular disease, may give rise to brain complications," the authors write. "In view of these alarming results, it is plausible that obesity-associated metabolic disease, short of type 2 diabetes mellitus, may be mechanistically linked to lower the academic and professional potential of adolescents."

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