Bigger beer bellies may lead to pint-sized brains

Brains think more clearly when we're not overworking ourselves. By taking a break from work you'll experience more

Overweight people had lower levels of grey matter - which contains most of the brain's nerve cells and includes brain regions involved in self-control, muscle control and sensory perception.

The study, from the United Kingdom, found that people who were obese and had a high waist-to-hip ratio (a measure of belly fat) had slightly lower brain volumes, on average, compared with people who were a healthy weight. Are you heavier or shorter than the average American? It was found that almost one in five of the participants were found to be obese. What did they find?

About 500 participants with a high BMI but not a high waist-to-hip ratio also had an average amount of grey matter. Meanwhile, 3,025 people with overall healthy scores had an average gray matter volume of 798 cubic centimeters.

However, the study found only an association between belly fat and lower brain volume, and can not prove that carrying more fat around the waist actually causes brain shrinkage. "This will need further research but it may be possible that someday regularly measuring BMI and waist-to-hip ratio may help determine brain health". "It's unclear if abnormalities in brain structure lead to obesity or if obesity leads to these changes in the brain", Hamer said. "Brain gray matter shrinkage...seems to be associated with obesity and with increased visceral fat", she said. "Detox' from overly processed foods: Why and how to cut back The study's strength is its size with "a sample of nearly 10,000 individuals", wrote Bohon, who was not involved in this research". They found no significant differences in white matter brain volume. This connection between reduced brain volume and abdominal fat could suggest that inflammation and vascular factors may be at work.

Charities said the findings supported evidence that maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet could lower the risk of developing dementia. Get CNN Health's weekly newsletter Sign up here to get The Results Are In with Dr. Sanjay Gupta every Tuesday from the CNN Health team.

Though the study didn't look at potential mechanisms linking visceral fat and brain shrinkage, one hypothesis is that this type of fat is thought to produce inflammatory substances that may play a role in brain atrophy, the researchers said. Hamer notes that he recently published data showing how physical activity may increase grey matter, suggesting that exercise may be a way to counteract some of the negative influences obesity might have on the body and brain.

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