In case you needed another reason to care about your weight, get this: New data links extra body fat — around the belly, in particular — to lower brain volume.
Yes, you read that right. It appears that pot bellies waste your brain. And while it’s hardly good news, it fascinates me nevertheless. Because — like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and microbiome dysfunction — it’s just one more unexpected peril of obesity to add to the pile.
So let’s dig into what this study had to say…
Bigger belly, smaller brain
The study analyzed data — including MRIs, body mass index (BMI), waist-to-hip ratio, and total fat mass — from nearly 10,000 people in the UK Biobank database. And ultimately, they discovered that both obesity and larger waistlines had links to lower gray matter.
A combination of overall and central obesity (excessive abdominal fat) was the most dangerous to gray matter, resulting in the lowest volumes compared with lean adults. And their gray matter was lower than just obese adults who weren’t also categorized as being centrally obese.
So why should you worry about gray matter?
For one, the study found that subjects with diabetes had less gray matter than non-diabetics.
Secondly, we know that gray matter is responsible for higher cognitive function. And losing it is a big risk factor for dementia.
So it seems there’s a very real connection between obesity, diabetes, and brain degeneration. Talk about a vicious domino effect!
Why subcutaneous fat is safer
Now, I’m obviously not encouraging anyone to stay overweight or obese. But these results do seem to suggest that the fat that dimples your hips and legs — what we call subcutaneous fat — isn’t nearly as dangerous to your brain as the fat around your waist.
And this makes a lot of sense. After all, visceral fat — that’s the kind that surrounds your internal organs — is more inflammatory and metabolically active, making it a bigger risk factor for other chronic diseases than its subcutaneous counterpart. Even among people who aren’t technically obese.
And, we know that inflammation is the driver behind all types of chronic diseases.
It’s also worth noting that this study didn’t find any links between obesity and white matter. (White matter is the part of the brain that deals primarily with motor signals. It’s vulnerable to insults like high blood pressure, and some loss is almost considered normal with age.)
All we need now is a study that shows whether or not long-term weight loss can deliver structural improvements to gray matter. But I certainly wouldn’t wait for these results to commit to dropping that spare tire as soon as possible.
The fact is, a lot of illnesses are perfectly preventable — and even reversible — with proper nutrition. As a country, we’ve eaten our way into disease… and we can eat our way out of it, too. It’s such a simple solution when you think about it…
I often wonder what the state of healthcare would be — what kind of amazing technology and breakthroughs we’d have now — if we could have used our research money and talent on something other than overly complicated solutions to self-created problems.
Especially when these problems are fixable simply by paying attention to what’s on your plate. That’s why I wrote my book, The A-List Diet. This book removes all of the common barriers to weight loss and gives you the tools and knowledge you need for weight loss success — and optimal long-term health.
P.S. If you or a loved one is battling Alzheimer’s or dementia, there are many ways for you to improve your cognition — including diet, exercise, herbal supplementation, and lifestyle interventions. That’s why I created my Drug-Free Protocol for Reversing Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
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“Central Obesity Linked to Lower Brain Volumes.” Medscape Medical News, 01/10/2019. (medscape.com/viewarticle/907545)