How Excess Weight Damages Your Brain

When weatherman Al Roker hit 340 pounds, he knew he needed to change his ways. Bariatric surgery in 2002 launched him on a journey that, with ups and downs, helped him cruise into his 60s as a much healthier 190-pound man. How did he change his relationship to food? One bite at a time. For example, he says, "I try not to read and eat, and interestingly, since I stopped that habit, my comprehension is even better."

That wouldn't surprise researchers who recently discovered that a healthy weight and smaller waist size mean a more robust brain, and that a higher body mass index and larger waist is associated with a thinning cerebral cortex - that's where thinking, seeing and talking go on.

Their six-year study, published in the journal Neurology, looked at almost 1,300 folks, average age 64. Participants who were obese (BMI of 30+) had an average waist circumference of 41 inches; those at a healthy weight (BMI of 18.5-24.9) averaged a 33-inch waist. An MRI scan of their brains revealed that every unit increase in BMI was associated with a measurable decrease in the thickness of the brain cortex. For obese folks the thinning was pretty dramatic, especially in those younger than 65. Their brain aging was accelerated by at least a decade!

So, to stay smart, aim for a healthy weight: Ditch highly processed foods and red meat and get 150-300 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, plus two 30-minute strength-building sessions weekly. Just think how smart you'll feel!

© 2019 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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