When it comes to coronary artery disease and cardiovascular issues, you will find plenty of research on the health impact of belly fat. Researchers believe the association might be related to blood sugar processing and inflammation.
Your brain could be struggling, it’s not all about your heart and arteries that can be affected by these changes.
The link between the belly and the brain
Researchers were wondering if there is a link between our BMI and the gray matter and they seem to have found an answer. The question was whether body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio — affected the amount of white and gray brain matter, as well as overall volume, in various parts of the brain.
Nearly 10,000 people with an average age of 55 were examined. The researchers compiled physical measurements, health surveys and MRI results. Taking into consideration the factors that could affect the brain volume, like age, smoking, high blood pressure and exercise levels, they come to the conclusion that a high BMI and a high waist-to-hip ratio had the lowest volume of gray matter.
Interestingly, those with a high BMI but the normal waist-to-hip ratio had more brain volume, but still not as much as those with both a normal BMI and a normal waist-to-hip ratio.
According to the study’s lead author, Mark Hamer, PhD, of Loughborough University in England, those with more belly fat tended to have the least brain volume of those studied.
Is fat around the belly area more dangerous than the fat around the hips?
The question is: fat around the belly area is more dangerous than the fat around some other parts of the body? The short answer is yes because the way belly fat works is different than what’s in other locations around the body.
Hamer affirms: “Abdominal fat produces a substance called cytokines,” “These are small proteins involved in cell signaling and immune response, and when you have too many, it can increase inflammation.”
Neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and glutamate — as well as insulin, glucagon and C-reactive protein, are affected by the inflammatory response. The end result: a bad mood, hunger signals, stress response and much more.
The recent study also reveals that inflammation may lower brain volume, and that could have an effect on how your brain operates. Hamer says there’s a strong link between declining brain volume and memory loss, and inflammation is one of the areas doctors look at when diagnosing dementia.
How to improve your belly health?
Eating healthier is the number one priority. “Maintaining a healthy weight is linked to many important health outcomes, and that includes brain health,” Hamer says. A good starting point is through healthy eating that emphasizes real foods, good fats, less sugar and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Secondly, exercising is also crucial for our belly health. People who get more activity regularly also tend to have better habits that make the brain happy, such as moderate alcohol use, a healthy diet, blood pressure control and not smoking.