|Obesity: Bad for the Brain|
|The News - Brain News|
|Sunday, 30 August 2009|
Keeping your weight in check may help keep your brain in shape. Being plump can increase the risk of dementia, according to new research reported in NewScientist.
Earlier studies have shown that obesity in middle age can bump up the chances of getting dementia decades later. But this research shows that older people who are obese have smaller brains on average than leaner oldsters.
Brain scans provide a more complete picture of the differences in brain size between obese people and those of average weight. In older obese people, the brain regions important to cognition are smaller, compared with leaner people, and this makes their brains appear up to 16 years older than their actual age, according to NewScientist.
The research was done at the University of California in Los Angeles by Paul Thompson. He found that in people with a higher body mass index, the brains were smaller, especially the parts of the brain that are important for planning and for memory.
In his research, Thompson notes that increased body fat may up the chances of having clogged arteries. This could reduce the flow of blood and oxygen to brain cells.
Some experts believe that exercise, known to improve blood flow and cardiac health, may be the answer to avoiding dementia.
“To keep your brain young, you need to have good blood flow and the way to have this is through exercise,” says Dr. Amit Shelat, a JustAnswer neurologist and faculty member in the department of neurology at North Shore University in Manhasset.
“As a person gains weight, the body can’t handle all the sugar and so pumps out more insulin,” explains Shelat. “The body becomes more resistant to insulin and eventually this leads to Type Two diabetes. The first thing you’ll be told when you go to the doctor is to exercise.”
An obese person is at an increased risk for a stroke, explains Dr. Albert Favate, neurologist and director of the Stroke Center at St. Vincent’s Hospital. “A person could be having hundreds of small, silent strokes in the brain,” he explains. “And these small strokes can contribute to dementia.”
Staying physically fit and mentally active are important for brain health, says Lou-Ellen Barkan, president and CEO of the New York City chapter of the Alzheimers Association. And eating right helps, too, she says.
“A brain healthy diet is one that is heavy on fruits and nuts and low in fat and cholesterol,” Barkan says. “Obesity is definitely not a good thing for a healthy brain.”
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