Being Overweight Can Affect Brain Function

Studies have shown that the brain appears to shrink more and age faster in overweight people. For example, in a study that compared brain images of people who were of normal weight with overweight (body mass index of 25-30) people of the same age, the overweight people had 4 percent less brain tissue and their brains looked eight years older than their normal weight counterparts. The brains of obese subjects (BMI over 30) had 8 percent less tissue and looked 16 years older. The loss of tissue depletes brain reserves and puts people at a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

A long-term study of more than 6,500 people in northern California found that those who were fat around the middle at age 40 were more likely to succumb to dementia in their 70s. A Swedish study found that, compared to thinner people, those who were overweight in their 40s experienced a more rapid, and more pronounced, decline in brain function over the next several decades. Another study of 114 middle-aged people (aged between 40 and 66) found that the obese tended to have smaller, more atrophied brains than thinner people; other studies have found similar results. Pronounced brain atrophy is a feature of dementia. While our brains usually atrophy with age, research shows that being obese appears to accelerate this process.

We don’t know yet whether or no obesity-associated brain damage can be reversed. But those two old friends, a healthful diet and plenty of exercise, have repeatedly been shown to protect the brain. Foods like oily fishes and blueberries have been shown to stimulate the growth of new neurons. And whether you are fat or thin, young or old, the best hope you have of guarding your brain is to eat well and exercise.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has been helping to improve the study, reading and cognitive skills of clients of all ages. Find out more about Optiminds brain fitness programs and cognitive skills training by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or email us at: And be sure to visit our website at

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