Adolescence represents a key period of brain development underpinned by the ongoing maturation of the prefrontal cortex-a brain region involved in the regulation of behaviour and cognition. Given the high prevalence of obesity in adolescents worldwide, this Review examines neurobiological and neurocognitive evidence describing the adolescent propensity to consume calorie-dense foods, and the neurodevelopmental mechanisms that heighten the adverse impact of these foods on brain function. The excessive consumption of calorie-dense food can undermine self-regulatory processes through effects on brain function and behavioural control. These changes could introduce enduring maladaptive eating behaviours that underlie adult obesity and related metabolic syndromes. Better understanding of links between adolescence, dietary decision making, and brain function is essential for clinicians to develop effective intervention strategies and for reducing long-term health-care costs associated with obesity.
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