Scientists Find A Correlation Between Waist Size And Brain Volume

In case you needed another reason to stick with your resolution to lose weight and get in shape, here’s a good one. Researchers at Loughborough University in England recently announced the findings of a new study indicating that excessive weight, especially around the middle, is related to a smaller brain.

Nearly 10,000 people were tested in the study, which first analyzed subjects’ body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio. Then, scientists used an MRI to scan their brain volumes. The participants who had the highest BMIs, meaning they were more obese, also had the lowest average gray matter volume. People with normal BMIs were found to have higher gray matter volume in their brains.

The study author, Mark Hamer, is a professor of exercise as medicine at the university. He explained the significance of his findings. “Obesity can have a detrimental impact on a wide range of health parameters,” he said. To put it bluntly, “people should strive to maintain normal body weight.”

Cara Bohon is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine. She was not involved with Hamer’s study but conducts similar research, and said, “one particularly interesting finding is that, among individuals with obesity, those with greater waist to hip ratio (a marker of visceral fat around the abdomen), showed even lower gray matter volume.”

It is still unclear what causes the loss in volume. Bohon suggested that “if there are nutritional factors impacting brain volume, these same nutritional factors could be a direct cause of obesity.”

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