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Here’s Another Reason to Get Rid of Extra Belly Fat- It Is Linked to Smaller Brains, Experts Says


Let’s face it, most people have at least a few of their favorite clothes rotting at the bottom of the closet because it exposes their belly fat. External appearances aside, too much fat around the stomach has many negative implications on our health. It increases the risks of various diseases including cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, and others.

However, now there is another reason to rid of stubborn belly fat. A recent study reveals that too much body fat, especially around the middle areas of the body, may be linked to brain shrinkage.

Why is belly fat hard to lose?

When exercising, it is noticeable that fats in other parts of the body like arms, legs, and chest burn faster than the fats in the stomach.  Unfortunately, this cannot be solved by madly doing area-targeted exercises.

Excess belly fats are hard to rid off because they are physiologically different than fats in other areas of the body. Stubborn fats like those in the stomach have different receptors than normal fat cells. They mostly have alpha receptors which cause that fat to be released slower than beta receptors found in normal fats. Stubborn fat is also more sensitive to insulin, which affects how the cells in the body store fat. Simply put they tend to store more fat and release less fat than normal fat cells in the body.

Extra Belly Fat and Brain Shrinkage

In a research published recently in the online issue of Neurology,  the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, experts found that those with higher body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio tend to have lower brain volume.

The study included more than nine thousand people with an average age of 55. Researchers measured the BMI, waist-to-hip ratio and overall body fat of the participants. Overall, 19 percent of the group was determined to be obese while the rest are on the normal range.

© Nevit Dilmen [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL]

The participants then underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look over the white and gray brain matter as well as the volume of different regions of the brain.

Before making comparisons, the researchers adjusted other factors that may affect brain volumes, such as age, body activity, smoking and, high blood pressure.

There were no significant differences found in the volume of the white brain matter. However, researchers found that those with high BMI and high waist-to-hip ratio were found to have the lowest volume of gray brain matter.  The gray matter mostly contains nerve cells involved in muscle control and sensory perception, which includes memory, seeing, hearing, speech, emotions, self-control and decision making.

To be specific, the results revealed that participants with healthy bodies were found to have an average gray matter brain volume of 798 cubic centimeters. Those with high BMI but normal waist-to-hip ratio were found to have an average gray matter brain volume of 793 cubic centimeters. Meanwhile, those who were recorded to have both high BMI and waist-to-hip ratio had the lowest average gray matter brain volume of 786 cubic centimeters.

Mark Hamer, PhD, of Loughborough University in Leicestershire, England, and author of the study said:

“While our study found obesity, especially around the middle, was associated with lower gray matter brain volumes, it’s unclear if abnormalities in brain structure lead to obesity or if obesity leads to these changes in the brain. We also found links between obesity and shrinkage in specific regions of the brain. This will need further research but it may be possible that someday regularly measuring BMI and waist-to-hip ratio may help determine brain health.”

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