Being overweight will obviously affect your heart and energy levels, but it can also be detrimental to other areas you may not expect. Numerous studies have shown that your body is a network of interconnected systems. Similar to how an ecosystem functions, changes to one part can cause ripples with unforeseen consequences. However, thanks to recent research, we are beginning to learn more and more about them, such as how being overweight affects your brain.

When you’re overweight, memory changes may not seem like possible results. The common logic is an increase in heart problems, lack of energy, decreased Insulin Efficiency, shortness of breath, etc. Therefore, if any problems did occur in your brain, it would follow that poor blood flow, hypertension, or some other cardiovascular problem would be the true culprit, such as during a stroke. While all that is true, it is not the complete picture.


A study on gaining weight and brain function

A study from the Women’s Health Initiative followed over 160,000 adult women for 15 years. Researchers tracked a variety of things in that time, including body mass index (BMI) and tested for cognitive abilities, i.e., how well subjects’ brains were working.

Even after factoring in high blood pressure and diabetes, scientists found a that for every point that BMI increased, there was a one-point drop in cognitive ability. The researchers concluded that being overweight, in and of itself, was probably affecting the brain.


The incredible shrinking brain

Unfortunately, memory problems aren’t the only thing to worry about. A separate study, published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, used brain imaging to measure the brain volume of fit, overweight and obese participants. They found that an increase in BMI led to a decrease in brain volume.

The brains of overweight participants appeared 8 years older than those of fit individuals, and with 4% less brain tissue than their lean counterparts. It’s even worse for the obese. Brains had 8% percent less tissue and appeared 16 years older than those of fit subjects.


What you can do

Learning and understanding how the different systems and conditions of our body affect each other is not just a source of bad news for the overweight, like an increased risk of cancer, it also allows us to make accurate decisions about how to counteract problems and improve our overall health in an optimal and efficient manner.