Studies Show Obesity Causes a Range of Problems for Your Body — Even Your Brain

obesity and brain health


It’s a well-known fact that obesity can have a wide range of health impacts. We’ve discussed many of these issues on this blog, including how obesity can reduce your lifespan, increase your risk of cancer and cause cardiovascular and musculoskeletal problems.

But did you know that obesity also affects your brain? There is a small but growing body of evidence that shows that obesity can have detrimental effects on your most vital organ.

The Link Between Obesity and Brain-Related Problems

In recent years, scientists across the world have conducted studies to determine how obesity affects the brain. Their emerging conclusion is that obesity can cause a range of problems for the brain.

These include:

  • Memory deficits
  • Age-related brain degeneration, including the development of neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s Disease

Memory Deficits

Studies show that obesity is linked to brain shrinkage and memory deficits. In a University of Cambridge study, researchers found that a higher a participant’s BMI (body mass index) was, the lower they performed on memory tasks.

This could be because obesity may actually affect the structure of the brain. A Boston University School of Medicine study found that individuals with excess fat tend to exhibit lower overall brain volume.

Brain Degeneration

Besides memory deficits, obesity could also have an effect on brain aging. Another study, which utilized brain scanning, showed that being overweight or obese corresponds with a greater degree of age-related brain degeneration.

Our brains change during the natural aging process. As we become older, the brain loses white matter and shrinks. Studies have shown that obese people have less white matter in their brains compared to normal-weight individuals.

The Relationship Between Obesity and the Brain

The changes that obesity prompts the brain to undergo may also fuel obesity in turn.

Dopamine is a chemical that occurs in the brain and causes us to feel pleasure. One study found that individuals with higher BMIs have a lower concentration of dopamine receptors. In other words, the brain is unable to process the chemical that tells it to feel happy.

That means that people who are obese may not feel pleasure after eating meals of normal proportions, causing them to overeat to feel satisfied.

Past studies have also shown a link between memory and eating habits. Put simply, if someone doesn’t remember eating, they’re more likely to eat. Because obesity may have a detrimental effect on memory, scientists hypothesize that memory deficits can result in overeating among people who are already obese.

Because obesity and brain function are highly complex phenomena, scientists are still determining the precise relationship between obesity and brain problems.

While many questions still remain, Dr. Dirk says, “There is no question that obesity accelerates and worsens various medical conditions and thus can be considered an ‘age accelerator.'”

What Can You Do To Fight Obesity?

While the science is still unsettled, it is very likely that obesity has a negative effect on the brain, and it is certain that obesity causes a range of other problems for the body.

Fortunately, the solution is simple. According to Dr. Dirk, “The simplest way deal with obesity is to prevent it. But if you’re already overweight or obese, you should actively work to reverse it with good nutrition and exercise. If nutrition and exercise fail to produce meaningful results within one year, it’s time to consider your obesity surgery options.”

How Bariatric Surgery Can Benefit Your Brain

Bariatric Surgery and Your BrainBariatric surgery comes with a lot of benefits, which isn’t exactly breaking news. Your body operates more efficiently when it’s healthy, and weight loss surgery can make the body immeasurably healthier. Alongside treating diabetes and reducing joint pain, new research indicates that weight loss surgery boosts your brainpower and creates lasting benefits for your noggin.

Obesity can be really hard on the brain. Carrying around too many extra pounds can result in bad memory, food addiction and a host of other disorders. As we age, the impact of obesity only intensifies. Obesity is already linked to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and stroke, but the hormones released by fat could be having a broader inflammatory impact on your body.

According to Dr. Dirk, conditions that predispose patients to Alzheimer’s disease look much like those for cardiovascular disease. “The less common risk factors for cardiovascular disease, like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, are the same.”

When a patient loses weight, whether through healthy lifestyle changes alone or alongside bariatric surgery, the risk for these ailments declines.

A study released earlier this year found that obesity surgery could help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, but Dr. Dirk isn’t so sure that’s the case. “Obesity is very common. More than 78 million Americans are obese, and 5.4 million will be affected by Alzheimer’s,” he says. “Statistically speaking, it’s highly likely that a person with Alzheimer’s is going to be obese.”

There is also a gene combination that has been identified in Alzheimer’s patients that is linked to high cholesterol, which gives credence to the idea that obesity is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

While patients should be concerned about how obesity affects their brain health, Dr. Dirk cautions that everyone should be doing what they can to prevent chronic disease. Alzheimer’s disease can strike anyone, and everyone should work toward a healthy lifestyle that benefits the entire body, not just the brain.

“My recommendation to everyone is to work at being healthy,” says Dr. Dirk. “If that means it’s time to consider obesity surgery, then don’t wait.”

Bariatric surgery is a major procedure, and it comes with risks, but for many patients the benefits to their health and quality of life far outweigh potential concerns. Contact Dallas Weight Loss Surgeon, Dr. Dirk Rodriguez NOW!