Stronger Association between Nucleus Accumbens Density and Body Mass Index in Low-Income and African American Children

Shervin Assari


Background: The nucleus accumbens’ (NAc) size, function, and density influence individuals’ body mass index (BMI). However, little is known about racial and socioeconomic status (SES) differences in the role of NAc density as a predictor of childhood BMI. Objectives: We used the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) data to investigate racial and SES differences in the effect of NAc density on childhood BMI. Methods: This cross-sectional study included 9497 children between ages 9 and 10. Mixed-effects regression models were used to analyze the data. The predictor variable was NAc density measured using diffusion MRI (dMRI). The outcome variable was BMI, operationalized as a continuous variable. Covariates included sex, age, ethnicity, family structure, and parental education. Race (White, African American, Asian, and Other/mixed) and household income (< 50k, 50-100 k, and 100+ k) were the moderators. Results: High NAc diffusion tension (density) was predictive of higher BMI, net of covariates. However, the positive association between NAc density and BMI was stronger in African Americans than in White, and in low-income than in high-income children. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that although high NAc has implications for children’s BMI, this effect varies across racial and SES groups. More research should be performed on the role of obesogenic environments in altering the effect of NAc on childhood BMI.

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