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Body weight could affect brain function, study finds

Researchers say weight gain could increase consumers’ risk for certain diseases and mental health problems

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Photo (c) Henadzi Pechan - Getty Images
While recent studies have highlighted the physical health risks associated with obesity, a new study is exploring how obesity can affect consumers’ brain function. 

According to researchers, obesity can decrease blood flow to the brain and increase the risk of mental health problems or Alzehimer’s

“This study shows that being overweight or obese seriously impacts brain activity and increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease as well as many other psychiatric and cognitive conditions,” said researcher Dr. Daniel G. Amen. 

The link between weight and the brain

To better understand how consumers’ weight could affect their brain function, the researchers analyzed brain scans from over 17,000 participants. In total, they looked at more than 35,000 images. 

The goal of the study was to measure participants’ overall brain function and blood flow throughout the brain and see if a link existed between those numbers and participants’ weight.

The researchers explained that poor blood flow to specific regions of the brain increases consumers’ risk of developing Alzheimer’s, regardless of body weight. This study highlighted the fact that both decreased blood flow to the brain and obesity only increased the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. 

This finding was true for both older and younger participants. Though many consumers associate Alzheimer’s with old age, the researchers found that excess body weight affects overall brain function in consumers of all ages; those risks are simply elevated as consumers get older. 

Similarly, that lack of proper blood flow to the brain can increase the likelihood of mental health issues. The researchers found that addiction, depression, bipolar disorder, and several other serious conditions are more likely when the brain isn’t functioning optimally. 

Because of how prevalent obesity, mental health concerns, and Alzheimer’s disease are for consumers, the researchers hope that these findings inspire more widespread efforts that promote healthier habits. With the right interventions, consumers can live longer and healthier lives. 

“One of the most important lessons we have learned through 30 years of performing functional brain imaging studies is that brains can be improved when you put them in a healing environment by adopting brain-healthy habits, such as a healthy calorie-smart diet and regular exercise,” said Dr. Amen. 

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