Research studies demonstrated that brain health may ultimately be associated with obesity. Scientists also reported that obesity affects the overall size and function of the brain, as well as specifically altering certain neuronal circuits. By way of instance, a recent research study found a connection between smaller brain size and lower gray matter volume associated with obesity around the stomach region. Another research study also found that the prefrontal cortex, an essential area in the brain that plays a fundamental role in thinking, planning, and self-control, is less active in people with obesity.
Scientists also demonstrated that a variety of specific brain cells or neuron can alter overeating habits in people with obesity. Several other research studies have also found further evidence showing the connection between brain health and obesity. Dr. Ilona A. Dekkers, from the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, utilized MRI scans to understand how obesity can affect the size and function of the brain. Dr. Dekkers reported lower gray matter volume in people with obesity. Dr. Ilona A. Dekkers also found evidence between the structure of the brain and obesity, known as morphology.
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How Obesity Can Affect Brain Health
Dr. Dekkers and her group of colleagues demonstrated in a series of research studies how obesity can affect the size and function of the brain because previous research studies found an increased risk of cognitive problems and dementia in people with obesity. Scientists evaluated brain scans from more than 12,000 people who participated in the United Kingdom Biobank Imaging research study. The brain imaging methods and techniques that Dr. Dekkers and her group of colleagues utilized in the research study demonstrated additional insights into the participants’ gray and white matter volume.
In another recent research study, Dr. Ilona A. Dekkers and her group of colleagues found that obesity is associated with smaller volumes of essential structures in the brain, including gray matter structures that are found in the center of the brain. Scientists also demonstrated that gender can affect the connection between fat percentage and specific brain structures. According to the research studies, men with obesity had lower gray matter volume in brain regions associated with movement while women with obesity had lower gray matter volume in the globus pallidus, a brain region associated with voluntary movement. According to the research studies, both men and women with obesity had white matter volume changes in a variety of brain regions.
Obesity and Inflammation
Dr. Dekkers stated that information from MRI scans may ultimately help improve insights into which brain structures are affected by obesity. Scientists believe that lower gray matter volumes can reduce the number of brain cells or neurons and white matter volume changes could affect the signals between the remaining brain cells or neurons. Other research studies suggest that gray matter volume changes may also affect the “food-reward circuitry” in the brain, which could make it difficult for people with obesity to control their eating behaviors. However, further research studies are still required.
Dr. Dekkers also demonstrated that, according to previous research studies, inflammation caused by obesity can affect brain health. Further evidence on how inflammation caused by obesity could affect brain health may explain the recent research study’s findings. “For future research studies, it would be of great interest to understand if differences in body fat distribution are associated with differences in brain morphological structure, as visceral fat is a known risk factor for metabolic disease and is connected to systemic low-grade inflammation,” stated Hildo Lamb, Ph.D., the research study’s senior author.
Obesity and Neurodegeneration
The brain changes as a normal part of the aging process, often losing white matter and shrinking. However, the aging process is different for every person. A variety of factors may cause slower or faster brain changes as a normal part of the aging process. One research study concluded that people with obesity have lower white matter volume compared to people with “healthy” weights. The research study also evaluated the brain structure of 473 participants. The information ultimately showed that the brain of people with obesity appears to be up to ten years older compared to people with healthy weights.
Another research study on 733 middle-aged participants demonstrated that obesity is also connected with the loss of brain mass. Scientists evaluated body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of participants and utilized MRI scans to find symptoms of neurodegeneration or brain degeneration. The results demonstrated that neurodegeneration or brain degeneration occurs faster in people with higher BMI, WC, and WHR compared to people with healthy weights. Scientists believe that loss of brain mass may cause dementia but further research studies are still required.
Obesity and Mental Health Issues
Obesity can also affect the way our brain functions. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with the pleasure-and-reward center in the brain. One research study found that dopamine released in the brain is associated with BMI. People with higher BMI have lower dopamine levels that may cause a lack of pleasure after eating normal-sized portions as well as the urge to eat more to feel satisfied. Moreover, another research study ultimately demonstrated that people with obesity feel less satisfaction when eating compared to people with healthy weights due to lower dopamine levels in the brain.
In conclusion, scientists found that obesity affects the overall size and function of the brain. Recent research studies demonstrated a connection between smaller brain size and lower gray matter volume associated with obesity. Dr. Ilona A. Dekkers, from the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, utilized MRI scans in a variety of recent research studies to understand how obesity can affect the size and function of the brain. According to these same recent research studies, obesity can ultimately affect brain health by causing inflammation, neurodegeneration, and various mental health issues. – Dr. Alex Jimenez D.C., C.C.S.T. Insight
The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, and nervous health issues or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We use functional health protocols to treat injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We also make copies of supporting research studies available to the board and or the public upon request. To further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900.
Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez
- Sandoiu, Ana. “How Might Obesity Affect the Brain?” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 27 Apr. 2019, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325054.php#1.
- Wlassoff, Viatcheslav. “How Obesity Affects the Human Brain.” World of Psychology, World of Psychology Media, 8 July 2018, psychcentral.com/blog/how-obesity-affects-the-human-brain/.
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Additional Topic Discussion: Chronic Pain
Sudden pain is a natural response of the nervous system which helps to demonstrate possible injury. By way of instance, pain signals travel from an injured region through the nerves and spinal cord to the brain. Pain is generally less severe as the injury heals, however, chronic pain is different than the average type of pain. With chronic pain, the human body will continue sending pain signals to the brain, regardless if the injury has healed. Chronic pain can last for several weeks to even several years. Chronic pain can tremendously affect a patient’s mobility and it can reduce flexibility, strength, and endurance.
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Dr. Alex Jimenez utilizes a series of tests to help evaluate neurological diseases. The Neural ZoomerTM Plus is an array of neurological autoantibodies which offers specific antibody-to-antigen recognition. The Vibrant Neural ZoomerTM Plus is designed to assess an individual’s reactivity to 48 neurological antigens with connections to a variety of neurologically related diseases. The Vibrant Neural ZoomerTM Plus aims to reduce neurological conditions by empowering patients and physicians with a vital resource for early risk detection and an enhanced focus on personalized primary prevention.
Food Sensitivity for the IgG & IgA Immune Response
Dr. Alex Jimenez utilizes a series of tests to help evaluate health issues associated with a variety of food sensitivities and intolerances. The Food Sensitivity ZoomerTM is an array of 180 commonly consumed food antigens that offers very specific antibody-to-antigen recognition. This panel measures an individual’s IgG and IgA sensitivity to food antigens. Being able to test IgA antibodies provides additional information to foods that may be causing mucosal damage. Additionally, this test is ideal for patients who might be suffering from delayed reactions to certain foods. Utilizing an antibody-based food sensitivity test can help prioritize the necessary foods to eliminate and create a customized diet plan around the patient’s specific needs.
Gut Zoomer for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Dr. Alex Jimenez utilizes a series of tests to help evaluate gut health associated with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). The Vibrant Gut ZoomerTM offers a report that includes dietary recommendations and other natural supplementation like prebiotics, probiotics, and polyphenols. The gut microbiome is mainly found in the large intestine and it has more than 1000 species of bacteria that play a fundamental role in the human body, from shaping the immune system and affecting the metabolism of nutrients to strengthening the intestinal mucosal barrier (gut-barrier). It is essential to understand how the number of bacteria that symbiotically live in the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract influences gut health because imbalances in the gut microbiome may ultimately lead to gastrointestinal (GI) tract symptoms, skin conditions, autoimmune disorders, immune system imbalances, and multiple inflammatory disorders.
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