Study finds link between big bellies and shrinking brains

We’ve been told for a long time that big bellies are connected to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and many other diseases and ailments, but shrinkage of the brain?  Seriously?

Apparently according to a recent study of 9,000 people, those who were found to be larger around the waist and with a higher body mass index (BMI) had smaller brain volume than others.  This was reported in Science Daily.

The study appears online in Neurology which is a peer-viewed medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Researchers were from the Loughborough University in England.

The study participants ages averaged around 55 years. 

The study also showed some good news in that those who were not big bellied but perhaps just slightly overweight had brains that were not shrunken at all.

The author of the study, Mark Hamer said that the study did not show whether the size of the brain led to obesity or vice versa.

“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,”Hamer said.

BMI is measured by a formula that divides your body weight by your height. Those who are classified as obese usually have a BMI of more than 30.

Also, waist to hip ratios which compares one’s waist measurement to one’s hip measurement is a way of determining the big belly to brain size syndrome. Obesity in men is defined when the ratio is higher this .90 or more.  In women it’s defined at .85 or more.

The University of Washington gives the following facts about the human brain:

•The adult human brain weighs about 3 lbs. (1,300-1,400 g).

•The adult human brain is about 2% of the total body weight.

•The human brain has about 86,000,000,000 (86 billion) neurons.

Science Daily reports the research was conducted using the UK Biobank Resource and received funding from the National Institute for Health Research Leicester Biomedical Research Centre as well as the UK Medical Research Council and US National Institute on Aging.

Now we have also been told that human brains shrink with age and my mother’s doctor told me that falling was dangerous because my mother could injure her brain at 98 years of age. He said her brain was like a ping pong ball in that there was a lot of room in her skull for her brain to easily get hurt.  And indeed, she received a small bleed from a fall and did not hit her head. It was the jostling of her brain hitting her skull.   However, my mother was not obese in any way —she was rail thin!  

Usually when we age, everything shrinks, even our spine which makes us shorter than we were in our youth!  But, it would be healthier to keep to a normal weight all the way around. We’d live longer in-spite of smaller brain sizes!