Body Fat, Obesity And Brain Shrinkage, A Vicious Cycle:
Weight loss is something that comes with a lot of challenges and motivations.
Most of which starts with looking better, and maybe eventually even feeling better.
And while many of us just assume that excess bodyfat is an unsightly-inconvenience,
Science is finding out that it’s a lot more problematic than just looks.
And if you need to lose fat, then the study by Ilona Dekkers at the University of Leiden will make you want to put your running-shoes right on,
Because excess-bodyfat affects a lot more than just your looks…
Wait, Fat Is Just Human-Jello Right?:
So anyone could be forgiven for thinking that body fat was just random inert stuff.
It doesn’t look like it does anything. It doesn’t have a specific shape like a heart or a nose.
It doesn’t even feel like it’s doing that much.
But the short answer is the UL team found that high-levels of excess bodyfat are associated with real differences in people’s brain-structures, which seem to have “shrunken” in some spots.
Read on to find out more…
Your Bodyfat Is Not Inert:
Although it seems fantastical,
The actual discovery that bodyfat was indeed a bodily-organ and not just “insulation” happened a few years ago.
Worse still, it’s considered an organ because it puts-out hormones into your system that interact with at-least 25 body-chemicals.
Even worse than that it does not regulate itself, and its output is not countered by other body-chemistry either.
So when you have twice as much fat, it does not tell each cell to only produce 1/2 the hormones; you actually get double!
And that causes problems.
Now up until very recently, and in some cases right until Ilona Dekkers’ work,
Science thought that the effects of excess bodyfat came down to about 3 things:
1) Inflammation-related disease from excess hormones
2) Cardiovascular-disease from excess fats being released into the bloodstream
3) Endocrine disease from excess fat damping receptor-sites
4) Malfunctioning of internal-organs due to overheating from surrounding fat
So when the researchers did their MRI studies to show the actual changes in physical brain-structure, the results were (pardon the pun) mind-blowing.
Brain-Drain, Losing All Kinds Of Mental Matter:
But it’s true, people’s brains were different.
Here’s what they found from 12,000 UK adults aged 45 to 76:
In the case of Men, the studies showed a reduction in the amount of Gray Matter in the centers of the brain that govern reward, physical movement, and also worryingly, many centers of learning and memory, including the main memory-center.
For Women, there seemed to be no effect on the memory or physical-movement centers, but similar areas associated with reward-circuitry were affected.
This may be one instance where women’s greater average bodyfat levels are an advantage over Men’s.
Both sexes also experienced shrinking volumes in the brain’s high-speed communication circuits found in the “White Matter”.
Either way, all of those results are alarming and suggest excess-levels of bodyfat negatively-impact brain health in ways not confirmed by brain-scans before.
Some Possible Qualifications:
Now one could argue that:
1) These subjects were tested 1 time, so they have no pre-obese baseline
2) This is Correlation, not Causation
3) Dekkers may have things backwards. People with malformed movement-centers become obese
And you might be right.
Except if it were only genes & not obesity, then why were the men’s Hippocampus regions affected?
Also, we’re talking about Obesity here, not chubbiness. You don’t just have to slow-down, you have to massively-overeat.
But What If She’s Right?:
There is one other terrifying option.
There is a certain tipping-point for human body-fat, in which the body’s response becomes pro-cyclical and exaggerates the problem instead of fixing it.
And that is actually what Ilona’s team seems to suggest.
All the more reason to get those running shoes on now, start counting calories and start fighting back before the problem gets worse.
Prior Research Confirms Leiden Team’s Scans:
And as we posted before, her thesis may be right,
Because GRPC’s work found one of the inflammatory-agents released by excess bodyfat,
Crosses the blood-brain-barrier and goes straight to the Hippocampus!
That study also Proved the results were not correlation by confirming them with liposuction on the test-animals.
-Something you couldn’t as-easily have done to the test-humans in Ilona’s work.
Furthermore, if one of the inflammatory agents like IL-1B could cross the BBB into the hippocampus,
(pause for effect)
Why couldn’t it Also affect other regions of the brain, too?
Scares the hell out of me, too.
Brain Shrinking Bodyfat, It Gets Worse. Then Better!:
More to Ilona’s point, remember back in that GRPC article we learned that obesity and diabetes have a very-close association.
We also learned that those two together just about Triple the risk for at-least Mild Cognitive Impairment and even Alzheimer’s.
And where is the ground-zero brain-region for those 2 diseases? -The Hippocampus.
Well just like the current work would reflect years later,
As soon as the Georgia test mice became obese, they also lost the motivation to move.
Back To The Future! Prior Research Proves Ilona’s Point:
1) A BBB that is compromised
2) IL-1B turning helpful brain-cells into harmful ones
Is likely what made things happen.
So given that, Ilona is probably witnessing Causation not Correlation.
But there’s also a fix!
Wait, It Gets Worse. Then Better!:
Both Exercise, and a repurposed-drug originally for rheumatoid arthritis, can fix the problem,
According to Dr. Alexis M. Stranahan.
This might be especially-important because non-cosmetic liposuction is impractical for obesity-sufferers.
And also in the large number of cases where someone may be physically-unable to do the necessary exercise.
But either way, the prior work shows that reversal is definitely possible, so if you have this problem you can fix it.
So if you slowly remove the excess fat that’s turned-into a poison and “shrunk” your brain, you might be able to reverse the inflammation damage, and repair those crucial regions just like the lucky lipo’d mice; just do the cardio if you can, ok?
Photo Credits: “light effects 4”, by Dora Mitsonia
• Source Study: Radiology – Obesity, Brain Volume, and White Matter Microstructure at MRI: A Cross-sectional UK Biobank Study
• More Coverage: GRPC [archived]