Could Your BMI Be Effecting Your Brain Function

There are several reasons why it is essential for you to maintain a healthy body weight. And your brain function is just one of them.

Cognitive decline is a normal part of aging. And as such, it can have a significant impact on an individuals quality of life.

Children as well as adolescents who are overweight or obese can have impaired brain function.

Let's examine some of the scientific evidence and what can be done to improve a person's body weight or BMI.

An Adult's BMI And Brain Function

Researchers from the University of Arizona have found that having a higher body mass index (BMI) can negatively impact cognitive functioning in older adults. The study was published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity were the lead author of the study Kyle Bourassareported that the higher your BMI, the more your bodily inflammation increase, particularly in the brain. 

adult body mass index

BMC Neurology published in 2005 that obesity can cause and exacerbate a number of medical conditions, including among others, heart, lung, endocrine diseases, and including obesity. Obesity in elderly women was associated with greater risk of dementia, white matter ischemic changes, and greater brain atrophy. 

What is white matter ischemic change? It is small areas in the brain where tiny blood vessels have ruptured or clotted off causing extremely small areas of strokes. Most commonly, chronic microvascular ischemic changes are associated with chronic health issues, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Health problems which are all linked with being overweight or obese.


A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, wrote that the more a postmenopausal woman weighs, the worse her memory becomes.The journal American Academy of Neurology published that body mass index was independently associated both with cognitive function (word-list learning and Digit–Symbol Substitution Test) and changes in word-list learning in healthy, non-demented, middle-aged men and women.

In 2004, after following 1,500 subjects for 21 years, Swedish researchers concluded that obesity doubles the risk of developing dementia.

A Child's BMI And Brain Function

childhood obesity and brain function
Image Credit: Daily Mail

Thus fare, research on obesity and brain function has focused mainly on adults. But there is growing evidence that children and teens can be equally problematic.

Research is showing that obese children have early brain damage and it appears to be associated with attention deficit and memory problems.

The American Psychological Association says that 17% of American children are obese. Childhood obesity not only brings about diabetes, hypertension, depression and inflammation — but can also raise the risk of cognitive decline as an older adult.

A 2008 study published in the journal Obesity reported that among 2,519 children, ages 8 to 16, increased body weight was associated with decreased visuospatial organization and general mental ability.

The More You Know
What is decreased visuospatial organization? According to The Free Dictionary by Farlex (a medical dictionary) - it is "Denoting the ability to comprehend and conceptualize visual representations and spatial relationships in learning and performing a task".

The Journal of Pediatrics published a study by researchers at the University of Illinois who found that overweight children ages 7 to 9 years who have more belly fat did worse on tests of hippocampal-dependent relational memory.

The journal Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases published that extremely obese adolescents exhibited deficits in many cognitive domains, including impairment in attention and executive functions (mental flexibility, disinhibition).

Getting To A Healthy BMI

Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is important to your overall health and can help you prevent and control many diseases and maintain a healthy brain function.

Many factors can contribute to a person’s weight. These factors include their environment, family history, genetics, metabolism (the way your body changes food and oxygen into energy), and behaviors or habits.

Body Mas Index

Use the BMI formula to calculate your score: BMI = weight (in pounds) / [height (in inches)] 2 x 703

  • A score below 18.5 is considered underweight
  • A score from 18.5 to 24.9 is considered a healthy body weight
  • A score from 25 to 29.9 is overweight
  • A score from 30 and above is obese

We noted above how to calculate your BMI. But many medical experts now agree that the BMI calculator is flawed. With obesity levels spiraling, the concern is that it is not an accurate predictor of future health issues.

Individual's can be at risk of disease, and yet have a normal BMI, which gives them false hope, explains Dr David Haslam, a General Practitioner and chair of the National Obesity Forum.

Haslam along with other medical experts published a report on obesity and type 2 diabetes say, "Eat fat, cut the carbs and avoid snacking to reverse obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

The report notes the published book - The Practice of Endocrinology (edited by Raymond Greene) which states that the diet for obesity is to avoid bread, flour, cereals, potatoes, sugar and sweets in favor of meat, fish, poultry, green vegetables, eggs, cheese and certain fruits.


Professor Robert Lustig, an American pediatric endocrinologist, and Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California (San Francisco) noted saying - “this new National Obesity Forum and Public Health Collaboration guideline focuses on real food over processed food, and makes the case that the entire healthcare complex needs to relearn nutrition in order to be effective advocates for their patients.”

Robert Lustig author of Fat Chance

A diet that avoids bread, flour, cereals, potatoes, sugar and sweets in favor of meat, fish, poultry, green vegetables, eggs, cheese and certain fruits requires no calorie counting.

A 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirmed that it is possible to eat more and still slim down.

The study compared weight loss in two groups of obese women. All of them were told to eat a reduced-fat diet, but one group was also instructed to consume a lot of water-rich foods, like soups, fruits and vegetables. That group ate 25 percent more food by volume but lost more weight (an average of 17.5 pounds versus 14). How? They were eating fewer calories, but were still satisfied, thanks to the foods' high water content.

Instead of counting calories, choose foods that use more calories. Foods like root vegetables, celery, fruit with its outer skin like apples among others are great examples of foods that use more calories.

How so? Fiber rich foods that contain their fiber intact fill you up for longer. Foods with fiber can also relieve indigestion and promote good digestive health.

Instead of counting calories, make sure you consume the right kind. "When it comes strictly to weight loss, a calorie is a calorie, says Dr. Klein from the University of California, Berkeley.

Klein says that nutrient-dense choices like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains can help prevent a host of health problems, while those lacking in nutrients, like candy, soft drinks and white bread can contribute to developing health issues.

The bottom line? You don't need to count calories, but you should make all your calories count.

Remember, when you are eating healthy for a healthy BMI and good brain function, you do not have to deprive yourself. And the master chef's at Panna Cooking have proven that time and time again with their wonderful low-carb recipes.

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First Posted November. 11, 2017 - Updated April. 22, 2018 Carbohydrates are the main staples…
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