In recent times, obesity has attained the status of a global epidemic. It is estimated that 37% of the population in US is obese.1Obesity not only affects the way we look but also affects each and every vital organ in the body including the brain.
There is a lot of awareness about how obese individuals are at a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and diseases of the kidney and the reproductive system. But, not many are aware about the way excessive weight gain can affect our memory and cognitive functioning. Researchers have found out five ways obesity seriously affects brain functioning.
1. Increases The Risk Of Dementia
Several long-term studies have proven that obese people are more prone to diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The studies even found out that a higher intake of saturated and trans fats in people who are overweight and obese contributed to the earlier onset of dementia.2
2. Obesity Leads To Food Addiction
People who are generally obese tend to have frequent carbohydrate cravings that increase the release of serotonin in blood. This serotonin rush is the reason why people who binge on carbohydrate-rich foods fall into a vicious cycle of overeating and weight gain.3This food addiction makes it even harder for obese individuals to stick to dieting and weight-loss regimes.
3. Obesity Increases Impulsive Tendencies
Researchers claim that in obese teens, the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain (the region that regulates impulsive behavior) appears to be shrunken compared with that of lean children. 4Inability to control impulsive eating is one of the main reasons why obese individuals cannot resist overeating.
4. Maternal Obesity Affects Fetal Brain Functioning
Obese women are more likely to give birth to infants suffering from low cognitive abilities and IQ. Studies even found out that maternal obesity made infants more prone to developing childhood obesity.5A close association has also been reported between the development of Autism Spectrum Disorder among infants born to women who were suffering from obesity and diabetes during pregnancy.6
5. Obesity Causes Sleep Disorders
Sleep disorder are pretty common among obese individuals. Studies have found that increase in visceral fat deposition contributed to sleep disorders like sleep apnea, daytime sleepiness and fatigue. This disrupted sleep pattern eventually led to insulin resistance and diabetes.7
Obesity affects the brain’s normal functioning in many ways. Given the above risks to brain health that are associated with obesity, it is best to adopt lifestyle changes to prevent it. Maintaining a healthy weight and following a daily exercise regime will boost our brain health in particular and our overall well-being.
|↑1||Obesity and Overweight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention|
|↑2||National Preventative Health Taskforce Alzheimer’s Australia Submission. Alzheimer’s Australia.|
|↑3||Wurtman, Judith J. “Carbohydrate craving.” Drugs 39, no. 3 (1990): 49-52.|
|↑4||Nederkoorn, Chantal, Caroline Braet, Yvonne Van Eijs, Ann Tanghe, and Anita Jansen. “Why obese children cannot resist food: the role of impulsivity.” Eating behaviors 7, no. 4 (2006): 315-322.|
|↑5||Huang, Lisu, Xiaodan Yu, Sarah Keim, Ling Li, Lin Zhang, and Jun Zhang. “Maternal prepregnancy obesity and child neurodevelopment in the Collaborative Perinatal Project.” International journal of epidemiology (2014): dyu030.|
|↑6||Li, Mengying, M. Daniele Fallin, Anne Riley, Rebecca Landa, Sheila O. Walker, Michael Silverstein, Deanna Caruso et al. “The association of maternal obesity and diabetes with autism and other developmental disabilities.” Pediatrics 137, no. 2 (2016): e20152206.|
|↑7||Vgontzas, Alexandros N., Dimitris A. Papanicolaou, Edward O. Bixler, Kenneth Hopper, Angela Lotsikas, Huong-Mo Lin, Anthony Kales, and George P. Chrousos. “Sleep apnea and daytime sleepiness and fatigue: relation to visceral obesity, insulin resistance, and hypercytokinemia.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 85, no. 3 (2000): 1151-1158.|