Functional Neurology: How Obesity Can Affect Brain Health

Obesity Affect Brain Health

Research studies demonstrated that brain health may ultimately be associated with obesity.

Scientists also reported that obesity affects the overall size and function of the brain, as well as specifically altering certain neuronal circuits.

By way of instance, a recent research study found a connection between smaller brain size and lower gray matter volume associated with obesity around the stomach region.

Another research study also found that the prefrontal cortex, an essential area in the brain that plays a fundamental role in thinking, planning, and self-control, is less active in people with obesity.

Several other research studies have also found further evidence showing the connection between brain health and obesity. Dr. Ilona A. Dekkers, from the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, utilized MRI scans in several recent research studies to understand how obesity can affect the size and function of the brain.

Dr. Dekkers reported lower gray matter volume in people with obesity. According to the research studies, people with obesity also had white matter volume changes in a variety of brain regions. In the following article, we will ultimately discuss how obesity can affect brain health.

Obesity Can Change How You Look and Feel

Recent research studies demonstrated that obesity can affect brain health. Ranjana Mehta, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health in College Station, Texas discussed how obesity doesn’t simply affect how you look and feel, it can affect your mental and physical health as well as cause a variety of brain health issues. Ranjana Mehta, who received funding from the National Institute on Aging to evaluate how obesity can affect brain health in older adults determined that obesity can affect brain structure and cause atrophy.

Obesity Can Alter the Way You Move

People with obesity have to carry extra weight that can add stress and pressure on the joints, ultimately altering movement. Scientists utilized imaging methods and techniques to demonstrate how people with obesity often have to utilize more mental resources when walking, although they were still able to walk as well as healthy people. Moreover, research studies found that stress and pressure from carrying extra weight affected brain activity in people with obesity compared to healthy people. The additional mental burden associated with obesity may also cause individuals to become tired more quickly.

Obesity Can Influence Your Memory

Obesity is associated with poor memory, often making it difficult to remember past events in young adults between 18 to 35 years of age, according to a research study published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. Further evidence also suggests that people with obesity experience memories in slightly less detail and/or less vividly compared to healthy people. Lucy Cheke, lead researcher and a lecturer in the department of psychology at the University of Cambridge in England discussed that memory can play a fundamental role in regulating what we eat and how we lose weight.

Obesity Can Lead to Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Other research studies demonstrated that obesity in people during their 40s, 50s, and even early 60s is associated with an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. According to Heather Snyder, senior director of medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer’s Association, mid-life obesity is connected with an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease over time with age. Scientists still don’t understand how obesity can cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, however, obesity can ultimately affect heart health which can play a fundamental role in brain health.

Obesity Can Cause Depression

As previously mentioned, obesity can ultimately affect mental and physical health. Dr. Susan McElroy, chief research officer at the Lindner Center of HOPE, a private psychiatric facility in Mason, Ohio, who has also evaluated the connection between obesity and mental health issues described that obesity can cause depression.

Scientists believe that just like obesity can cause major depression, it may also cause bipolar disorder. Furthermore, scientists believe that depression itself may, in turn, also cause obesity. McElroy suggests that obesity and depression both need to be addressed to make progress.

Obesity Can Rewire the Pleasure-and-Reward Center

In a research study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, a region of the brain, known as the striatum, was demonstrated to be less active in people with obesity. The striatum plays a fundamental role in controlling the pleasure-and-reward center in the brain associated with the release of the neurotransmitter or chemical messenger known as dopamine.

The release of dopamine we get from eating certain foods, such as foods that are high in sugars and fats, can have a dulling effect in people with obesity which scientists believe can cause a person to overeat to regain that fleeting sense of pleasure.

To further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact them at 915-850-0900

Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez


  • Sandoiu, Ana. “How Might Obesity Affect the Brain?” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 27 Apr. 2019,
  • Wlassoff, Viatcheslav. “How Obesity Affects the Human Brain.” World of Psychology, World of Psychology Media, 8 July 2018,
  • Schroeder, Michael O. “6 Ways Obesity Can Weigh on the Brain.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 12 May 2016,

via Functional Neurology: How Obesity Can Affect Brain Health — EP Wellness & Functional Medicine Clinic

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