A new study has prompted some doctors to reconsider how obesity is classified.
Currently, it is treated as a behavioral disease, but doctors are now suggesting that it be considered a brain-development disorder such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (also known as ADHD), autism and Asperger’s syndrome.
The study, which was published on Science.org, was conducted by doctors from Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.
Researchers looked at one area of the brain, the arcuate nucleus, which has several different types of neurons, including ones that control metabolism, according to ScienceDirect.
During early childhood, this part of the brain undergoes changes. The brain is particularly sensitive to programming during this time, and it will affect how body weight can be regulated later in life.
The study, which was conducted on mice, found that these changes occur earlier in females than males.
If an adult’s body mass index, which is a way to measure body fat, is 30 or higher, they fall within the obesity range, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Our results provide new evidence that developmental epigenetics is likely involved in both early environmental and genetic influences on obesity risk,” said Dr. Harry MacKay, one of the study’s authors and postdoctoral associate at the Baylor College of Medicine.
“Accordingly, prevention efforts targeting these developmental processes could be the key to stopping the worldwide obesity epidemic.”
The CDC first recognized obesity as a national epidemic in 1999.
Four in 10 American adults are obese, and obesity rates continue to climb nationwide and within population groups, according to “State of Obesity 2022: Better Policies for a Healthier America.”
It was also found that 19 states have adult obesity rates over 35%, with West Virginia, Kentucky and Mississippi having the highest rates.
The obesity rates in the US have shot up from a decade ago when no state had an adult obesity rate at or above 35%.
President Joe Biden recently announced new initiatives to curb obesity and diet-related disease like diabetes.