The short answer is a definitive yes.
According to new research done at the University of Pittsburgh, it appears that being overweight or obese can shrink your brain anywhere from 4-8%.1
Even scarier, the brains of overweight people and obese subjects looked anywhere from 8-16 years older than the brains of people of normal weight.
You might be interested in the actual brain functions affected by this brain shrinkage. These include: short term memory, self-control, planning, attention, executive function, long-term memory, as well as proper movement and coordination.
Dr. Paul Thompson, a UCLA professor of neurology sums it up nicely, “This represents ‘severe’ brain degeneration, that’s a big loss of tissue and it depletes your cognitive reserves, putting you at a much greater risk of Alzheimer’s and other diseases that attack the brain… But you can greatly reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s, if you can eat healthy and keep your weight under control.”
How Important Is Your Brain?
I know a lot of us desire to lose weight because it will make us look better, prevent heart disease, etc., but to me my brain is THE MOST IMPORTANT organ in the body.
Without a healthy brain you can’t:
1. Make Good Decisions
2. Remember Information
3. Handle Stress
4. Age Without Dementia
Most importantly, if you have grandchildren… you simply will not be around to help or enjoy them fully without a healthy brain. There is nothing sadder for a child or grandchild to have a loved one who can’t even remember their name… or have a basic conversation.
Having a healthy brain is something I feel I owe to my children, my spouse, and most importantly my future grandchildren.
And we now know that one huge factor in maintaining a healthy brain is to maintain a healthy bodyweight.
So if nothing else will truly motivate you, maybe this will.
One quick thing, there is a myth out there that we only use 10% of our brains. This is perpetuated by the self-development community so they can claim to help you gain access to the other 90% and take your money.
I just want you to know, this is demonstrably false. You use it all, and even losing 4% is quite a blow… so please don’t use the 10% myth to minimize the results of this study.
If you want to read more about the 10%, you can read this wonderful article from Scientific American.
How interested are you in brain health?
As I was going over this research, it occurred to me that you might also be interested in brain health. There is a lot going on in this area, and it is a passion of mine.
If you would like me to blog more on this subject, please let me know below.
Dr. Steven Sisskind, M.D.
1. Source: Raji CA, Ho AJ, Parikshak NN, Becker JT, Lopez OL, Kuller LH, Hua X, Leow AD, Toga AW, Thompson PM. Brain structure and obesity, Hum Brain Mapp 2009 Aug 6