Study links belly fat to smaller brain

Sleep helps the brain consolidate memories and clear out waste. Lack of sleep can affect your reaction time your memory and how well you process information. Chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for diabetes heart disease and stroke and speed up the

Obesity linked to reduced brain volume in four regions The study of 9,652 middle-age people in the United Kingdom measured body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio.

BMI is a weight-to-height ratio.

This compared with a volume of 798 for around 3,000 people of healthy weight. People who have bigger bellies compared to their hips have a higher ratio, with men above 0.90 and women above 0.85 considered to be centrally obese. Because the study only analyzed body fat and brain images at a single point in time for all of the participants, it's also possible that the reverse effect could be occurring, and that brain changes are responsible for changing eating habits and satiety and therefore driving the increase in body fat.

Of the 9,652 people studied, 19 per cent were determined to be obese. "One particularly interesting finding is that, among individuals with obesity, those with greater waist to hip ratio (a marker of visceral fat around the abdomen), showed even lower gray matter volume", Bohon said.

The new findings, published January 9 in the journal Neurology, suggest that the combination of obesity (as measured by body mass index, or BMI) and a high waist-to-hip ratio may be a risk factor for brain shrinkage, the researchers said.

Their brain may already have shrunk, causing them to pile on weight after losing grey matter in the brain regions which help to control your appetite and feel full. White matter contains nerve fibre bundles that connect various regions of the brain. The researchers factored in age, physical activity, smoking and high blood pressure, all of which might lead to reduced volume.

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Among people with higher BMIs, those with thicker waists had lower grey matter brain volumes than those who were slimmer round the middle.

It could be that people with lower volumes of gray matter in certain brain areas are at a higher risk of obesity.

Dr Hamer said: 'While our study found obesity, especially around the middle, was associated with lower gray matter brain volumes, it's unclear if abnormalities in brain structure lead to obesity or if obesity leads to these changes in the brain'.

A limitation of the study is that people who agreed to take part in the study tended to be healthier than people who did not want to take part, so the results may not apply to the general population as a whole, the researchers noted.

Learn more about the brain at BrainandLife.org, home of the American Academy of Neurology's free patient and caregiver magazine focused on the intersection of neurologic disease and brain health.

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