How Obesity and Overweight May be Impacting Your Brain …
Plus What You Can do to Avoid This “Severe” Health Risk
Obesity has been called the “Great American Disease” because it now impacts 30 percent of U.S. adults (which amounts to over 60 million people). It is, however, a global disease that affects more than 300 million worldwide.
Obese and overweight people have 8 percent and 4 percent, respectively, less brain tissue than normal-weight individuals.
While most are aware that being overweight and obese can increase their risk of high cholesterol, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, researchers from UCLA have uncovered another lesser known, but equally severe, risk.
After reviewing brain scans of 94 people in their 70s, researchers found that obese people have 8 percent less brain tissue than those of normal weight, and their brains look 16 years older as well.
Overweight people, in addition, had 4 percent less brain tissue and their brains appeared 8 years older than those with leaner builds. This amounts to “severe brain degeneration,” according to senior author of the study and UCLA professor of neurology Paul Thompson. He told Live Science:
“That’s a big loss of tissue and it depletes your cognitive reserves, putting you at much greater risk of Alzheimer’s and other diseases that attack the brain.”
Other Surprising Health Risks of Obesity You Might Not Know About
Aside from causing your brain to age prematurely, it’s also been found that obesity now causes nearly as many cases of cancer as smoking, and may one day surpass it.
In fact, it’s estimated that 90,000 cancer deaths could be prevented every year in the United States if Americans maintained healthy weights.
As part of the UK’s Million Women Study, researchers found that increasing body mass index (BMI, a standard for measuring your weight to height ratio) was associated with a significant increase in the risk of cancer for 10 of the 17 cancer types they examined. Excess weight, they found, contributes to cancers of the:
- Uterine lining
- Breast (in post-menopausal women)
Excess weight was also linked to leukemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Other studies, too, have found unique risks to carrying extra body weight. Obesity, for instance, raises your risk of dying in a car accident, increases your sensitivity to pain, and makes you more apt to being bullied as a child.
Other health risks linked to excess weight include:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
- Liver and Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
- Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
- Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)
There is Good News: If You Lose Weight, Your Risk of Obesity-Related Illness Decreases Too
As Paul Thompson, the UCLA researcher who found obesity is linked to severe brain degeneration, said, “You can greatly reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s, if you can eat healthily and keep your weight under control.”
That reduced risk goes for the other obesity-related health risks as well, so the sooner you get started the better. Even if you’ve just gained a “few” pounds, you can use the tips that follow to ensure those 10 pounds don’t turn into 20, 30, 40 or 50.
Experts recommend limiting your weight gain during adulthood to less than 11 pounds. This means if you’re currently at a healthy weight, add 11 pounds to that number, and, no matter what happens, don’t let yourself slide over it.
1. Clean Up Your Diet
First, limit added sugars in your diet from foods like soft drinks, candy, cake, cookies, pies and fruit drinks. Next, choose healthier cooking methods like baking, grilling, steaming or broiling your food instead of frying it.
Eating more fruits and vegetables will also help you to eat fewer calories while still feeling satisfied. Plus, these foods give your body plenty of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber that fight cancer.
It’s very important that you also watch your portion size. Overeating will lead to weight gain, even if you’re overeating healthy foods. When you take your next meal, try serving yourself a little less than you usually eat, and then stop eating when you’re full — not when your plate is clean.
2. Get Moving
Physical activity, on most days of the week, will help you to stay slim. Been awhile since you’ve exercised? Check out How to Most Effectively Start Working Our When You Haven’t Exercised in Years.
Lose Weight by Nourishing Your Mind AND Your Body
3. Address Your Mind AND Body
Because your body and mind are so closely linked, a weight loss program that only focuses on your physical being will miss out on the incredibly important mental and emotional aspects of health and weight loss.
Stressful situations can increase your tendency to overeat and gain weight, and they can also make it more difficult to stick to your new healthier habits. You can relieve stress and burn calories by exercising — as it increases the levels of endorphins in your body, which stimulate your immune system, reduce stress and put you in a better mood — and also by using natural supplements to attain calmness.