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J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2018 Jun;5(3):580-587. doi: 10.1007/s40615-017-0403-8. Epub 2017 Aug 4.

Elevated Thalamic Response to High-Sugar Milkshake in Ethnic and Racial Minorities.

Author information

1
Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, 135 Dauer Drive, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599, USA.
2
Oregon Research Institute, 1776 Millrace Dr, Eugene, OR, 97403, USA.
3
Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, 135 Dauer Drive, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599, USA. ksburger@email.unc.edu.
4
Biomedical Imaging Research Center, UNC School of Medicine, 125 Mason Farm Road, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599, USA. ksburger@email.unc.edu.

Abstract

In the USA, Hispanics and African-Americans show elevated obesity, yet little is known about possible ethnic/racial differences in brain response during intake of palatable foods. To examine potential differences between non-Hispanic white (nHW) and racial/ethnic minority individuals, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess brain response to intake of eucaloric milkshakes that were either high-sugar or high-fat and a calorie-free, tasteless control solution. Our sample included healthy-weight adolescents who identified as African-American and/or Hispanic (minority, n = 27) and non-Hispanic white (nHW, n = 106). Minority participants showed elevated response in the pre-/postcentral gyrus, precuneus, and left thalamus in response to the high-sugar milkshake compared to high-fat milkshake. To confirm these effects were not driven by differences in body mass or a function of unequal cell sizes, we performed the same analyses in minority participants and a randomly selected subsample of nHW participants (n = 27) that were matched on BMI percentile. Similar to the full sample, we observed an elevated ventral posterior thalamic response to high-sugar milkshake in minority participants. This effect held after controlling for self-reported sugar and fat intake. These results suggest that African-American and Hispanic groups may have elevated response to specifically high-sugar foods in regions of the brain associated with sensory processing, providing novel information regarding the possible neural underpinnings of the disproportional risk for obesity seen in African-American and Hispanic populations.

KEYWORDS:

Food intake; Minority; Obesity; Thalamus; fMRI

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