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How Obesity Affects the Brain

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

how obesity affects the brain

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  • Obesity may lead to alterations in brain structure, shrinking certain regions
  • Among men, higher total body fat percentage was linked to lower brain gray matter volume; a 5.5% greater total body fat percentage was associated with 3,162 mm³ lower gray matter volume
  • In women, 6.6% greater total body fat percentage was associated with 11.2 mm³ smaller globus pallidus volume; the globus pallidus is a brain region that plays a role in supporting a range of functions, including motivation, cognition and action
  • Obesity is associated with inflammation, and inflammation may increase your risk of dementia
  • Insulin resistance, a hallmark of obesity, is also thought to be involved in both cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Obesity may also be associated with lower volume in brain regions that regulate food-reward circuitry, possibly influencing overeating

Obesity rates have tripled worldwide since 1975, and as of 2016, 39% of adults were overweight while 13% were obese. Associated health risks like heart disease and diabetes are well known, but many aren't aware that your brain may also be affected by obesity.

Rates of neurodegenerative disorders, including dementia, are also on the rise, with an estimated 115 million people expected to be living with dementia by 2050. It's possible that rising rates of obesity may be one driving force behind this growing burden — and one that's largely preventable at that.

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