Why do humans undergo an adiposity rebound? Exploring links with the energetic costs of brain development in childhood using MRI-based 4D measures of total cerebral blood flow

Jacob E. Aronoff*, Ann Ragin, Can Wu, Michael Markl, Susanne Schnell, Ali Shaibani, Clancy Blair, Christopher W. Kuzawa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Individuals typically show a childhood nadir in adiposity termed the adiposity rebound (AR). The AR serves as an early predictor of obesity risk, with early rebounders often at increased risk; however, it is unclear why this phenomenon occurs, which could impede understandings of weight gain trajectories. The brain’s energy requirements account for a lifetime peak of 66% of the body’s resting metabolic expenditure during childhood, around the age of the AR, and relates inversely to weight gain, pointing to a potential energy trade-off between brain development and adiposity. However, no study has compared developmental trajectories of brain metabolism and adiposity in the same individuals, which would allow a preliminary test of a brain-AR link. Methods: We used cubic splines and generalized additive models to compare age trajectories of previously collected MRI-based 4D flow measures of total cerebral blood flow (TCBF), a proxy for cerebral energy use, to the body mass index (BMI) in a cross-sectional sample of 82 healthy individuals (0–60 years). We restricted our AR analysis to pre-pubertal individuals (0–12 years, n = 42), predicting that peak TCBF would occur slightly after the BMI nadir, consistent with evidence that lowest BMI typically precedes the nadir in adiposity. Results: TCBF and the BMI showed inverse trajectories throughout childhood, while the estimated age at peak TCBF (5.6 years) was close but slightly later than the estimated age of the BMI nadir (4.9 years). Conclusions: The timing of peak TCBF in this sample points to a likely concordance between peak brain energetics and the nadir in adiposity. Inverse age trajectories between TCBF and BMI support the hypothesis that brain metabolism is a potentially important influence on early life adiposity. These findings also suggest that experiences influencing the pattern of childhood brain energy use could be important predictors of body composition trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1044-1050
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Volume46
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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