Do the food choices we make as teens come back to haunt us as adults?

Do the food choices we make as teens come back to haunt us as adults?

  • Does overeating high calorie food as a teenager impact the food choices we make as adults? 
  • New study will examine whether teens are more vulnerable to unbalanced dietary habits wreaking havoc with their long-term health if they eat junk food through those years of development. 

A neuroscientist from the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute has been awarded almost £550K to study the effect eating ‘junk food’ as a teen might have on individuals throughout adulthood. 

Dr Fabien Naneix was awarded a New Investigator grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to carry out the three-year project. 

Dr Naneix said: “We know that eating too much tasty but often high-calorie foods can lead to obesity or Type 2 diabetes and, worryingly, the number of overweight or obese teens is rising. As their bodies and brains are still developing, it is likely that teens are more vulnerable to developing unbalanced dietary habits which may wreak havoc with their long-term health if they eat junk food through those years of development. 

“I want to understand how the overconsumption of sugar or fat during adolescence impacts food choices later in life. As part of that, I want to look at how it impacts choices between balanced or unbalanced foods, sensitivity to food stimuli, and the related brain functioning. We want to show whether there is a correlation between poor adolescent diet and long-term poor diet choices.  

“My work will especially focus on a part of the brain called the ‘brain’s reward system’ and its central neurotransmitter (chemicals that allow neurons to communicate with each other); dopamine.  

“Dopamine is already known to play a central role in food choice, and we previously showed this circuit does not mature before adulthood, meaning younger brains are more vulnerable. We will use modern neuroscience techniques using mice to target, record and manipulate these specific brain circuits, hoping to pave the way to better understand the effect of the modern lifestyle on feeding behaviours and health.” 

Dr Naneix’s project, entitled ‘Adolescent sugar overconsumption programs food choices via altered dopamine signalling,’ will get underway later this year.

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