Hey Angels and Alphas,
Everywhere you look in the weight loss community, you see health and fitness professionals put emphasis on how excess weight changes our bodies. Not just related to the way we look, but also in terms of the cardiovascular effects, insulin resistance, bone and joint health, metabolic syndrome, and other problems.
But just like it has an effect on all of these things, excess weight (and losing it) has effects on the brain.
For example, studies have suggested that there’s a link between diabetes, depression, hypertension, inflammation, and all of them each combine to raise the risk of cognitive problems with these problems continuing into adulthood.
But does that mean losing weight will make you smarter or more mentally acute?
The truth is, it’s complicated. There are even a few temporary brain changes that happen during the weight loss process that won’t feel beneficial at all. That being said, it’s helpful that we’re aware of how much weight loss plays a role in the ways our brain operates and we’re able to recognize the importance of the connection between our brain and our body.
Let’s take a brief look behind the process our bodies go through when they lose weight and identify which aspects have to do with changes to our brain…
#1 GOING INTO SABOTAGE MODE
In one study, researchers examined participants who lost about 10 percent of their bodyweight, and what they found was that they had less leptin before losing the weight.
Leptin is a hormone that signals satiety and prompts you to stop eating. When you have lower total fat, these cells shrink down since leptin is released by fat cells. This signals an energy deficiency to the brain. Your brain’s natural response to this is to ramp up your calorie intake, making you crave food high in calories.
When this happens, here’s one thing you should know… get more sleep.
Sleep balances your leptin levels. With sleep, exercise, stress reduction, and a reduced sugar intake, you can get your hormones on track for weight loss success.
#2 LOWER OVERALL BRAIN VOLUME
In one more recent study, researchers found that excess body fat was linked to a lower overall brain volume, a potential precursor to age-related cognitive issues. The study found that the higher the amount of weight participants carried in their midsections, the more pronounced this effect became.
They theorized that this may be because belly fat produces cytokines, small proteins that are involved in cell signaling which, when too abundant, can actually start to become inflammatory. When this happens, it can have a massive negative effect on various types of neurotransmitters, lowering overall brain volume.
If you’re actually losing weight because you’re adding new cardiovascular exercises to your routine, you should know that this increases brain volume, as well. Especially when it comes to high-intensity activity.
Higher brain volume is generally associated with problem-solving and information processing, and prevalent in these studies was the increase in the size of the hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for learning and memory.
#3 YOUR BRAIN GETS TUNED UP
In one study done on women who lost weight as a result of surgery, researchers found that participants did better on certain executive function tests compared to the performance on the same tests before their surgery. They were literally more adept at strategizing, organizing, and planning even though they lost the weight through surgery.
The results were potentially related to the way women metabolize sugar at a higher rate in their brains than those who are at a lower weight. Once they lost weight after the surgery, the participants’ brain metabolism rates had shifted to a lower level.
The bottom line is…
The mechanisms involved in the way your brain-body connection works can be complex, but one thing is definitely clear: losing weight does affect the structure of your brain, and it does so rather positively.
Losing excess fat will likely result in lowering your risk of chronic and cognitive disorders, as well as allow your body to become more efficient and metabolizing sugar, giving you the ability to process information more efficiently.