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How Your Growing Waistline Can Shrink Your Brain

How Your Growing Waistline Can Shrink Your Brain

Find out how being overweight or obese can affect your brain's grey matter.

In Japan, most Sumo wrestlers weigh three to four hundred pounds. While they’re professionally active, they follow a diet and workout routine that helps keep them surprisingly healthy considering their girth. But once they stop training, they’re prone to type 2 diabetes, high LDL cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, and have a life expectancy 10 years shorter than the general population.

Shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that, sooner or later, being chronically obese is going to exact consequences. But, belly fat and brains—well, if you got one, you’re losing the other!

In a study published in Neurology, researchers found that people with the highest body mass index (BMI) and the highest waist-to-hip ratios (fat around the middle), had the lowest volume of brain grey matter (it contains most of the brain’s nerve cells, memory transmission centers and synapses). People with a BMI of 30 or above and a high waist-to-hip ratio above 0.90 for males and above 0.85 for females had an average grey matter brain volume of 786 cubic centimeters. Folks with healthy levels had an average volume of grey matter of 798 ccs. Just being overweight (even without a huge belly) is also associated with a smaller hippocampal memory relay center.

Such grey-matter shrinkage puts you at risk for dementia! So, let this be the year that you’re summa (not Sumo) cum laude about your health!

For a boost, check out What to Eat When, Dr. Mike’s new book and discover how to increase your metabolism and maximize your health and weight loss. Also, to keep up with your BMI and other health trackers, try out the Sharecare app for iOS and Android.

Medically reviewed in September 2019.

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