Extra pounds result in smaller brains

By Michelle Anderson • Published: January 22nd, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Sometimes the news can be downright depressing.

If you’re constantly fighting the battle of the bulge, this may be one of those times.

Researchers have discovered that elderly people who are obese… or just overweight… have significantly less brain tissue than people whose weight is considered normal.

Excess weight has long been known to be a factor in many health issues, such as high blood pressure, type two diabetes and heart disease.

But the recent study by UCLA researchers, published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, is the first to tie being overweight or obese to brain degeneration.

In this study, researchers looked at brain scans taken of people in their seventies. The subjects were healthy and weren’t cognitively impaired.

The researchers used body mass index, also called the B-M-I, to define the weight categories and classify study subjects as obese, overweight or normal.

They then converted the scans into three-dimensional images, using a method that gave them a high-resolution look at the brain.

Those defined as obese had lost brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes… parts of the brain critical to planning and memory, as well as parts of the brain that control attention, long-term memory and movement.

Such a large amount of tissue loss puts those most overweight at greater risk of Alzheimer’s and other diseases that affect the brain.

But researchers said eating healthy foods and keeping your weight under control should go a long way toward helping reduce those risks.

So keeping your mind sharp could be a matter of keeping your tummy flat.