Perceived Social Isolation Tied to Altered Brain Processing of Food Cues

Neural changes associated with eating behaviors and psychological symptoms
Perceived Social Isolation Tied to Altered Brain Processing of Food Cues
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Medically Reviewed By:
Meeta Shah, M.D.

TUESDAY, April 9, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Social isolation is associated with altered brain processing of food cues in premenopausal women, according to a study published online April 4 in JAMA Network Open.

Xiaobei Zhang, Ph.D., from the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues examined the association between perceived social isolation and brain reactivity to food cues, altered eating behaviors, obesity, and mental health symptoms. The analysis included 93 healthy, premenopausal female participants who underwent magnetic resonance imaging while performing a food cue viewing task.

The researchers found that participants with higher perceived social isolation reported higher fat mass percentage, lower diet quality, increased maladaptive eating behaviors (cravings, reward-based eating, uncontrolled eating, and food addiction), and poor mental health (anxiety, depression, and psychological resilience). The group with higher social isolation showed altered brain reactivity to food cues in regions of the default mode, executive control, and visual attention networks. There was a correlation between isolation-related neural changes in response to sweet foods and various altered eating behaviors and psychological symptoms. The connection between social isolation and maladaptive eating behaviors was significantly mediated by altered brain responses to sweet foods (β for indirect effect, 0.111), as were associations with increased body fat composition (β, −0.141).

"These findings underscore the need for holistic mind-body–directed interventions that may mitigate the adverse health consequences of social isolation," the authors write.

One author disclosed being a scientific adviser to Yamaha.

Abstract/Full Text

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