Sunday, September 24th, 2017

Obesity is Associated with Brain Dysfunction- Another Good Reason to Lose Weight


Well, if the headline of this blog doesn’t grab your attention, I don’t know what will! We don’t mind losing some things, like our waists and fitness level, but when it comes to potentially ‘losing our minds’, it should make us want to sit up and listen.

The bad news is out and hard to ignore. Evidence is growing that links obesity and executive dysfunction in the brain and this refers not just to reduced mental functioning but to scary conditions that none of us want to end our dying days with such as Alzheimer’s dementia [1].

So, what is executive functioning and why do we need it? Well, with a name like ‘executive’ it clearly tells you that it is that part of the mind that takes charge of most things. In more scientific terms, executive functioning refers to your mental abilities that control and regulate other abilities and behaviors such as the ability to organize thoughts and activities, manage time, prioritize tasks, make decisions and work towards goals. In a nutshell our executive functioning enables us to think and act normally!

Teachers in schools often talk about the executive functioning of children in relation to their learning abilities. If you are worried about your child’s executive functioning, or your own for that matter, then I suggest you view the following link to get a brief overview on symptoms relating to executive function (you may have to copy and paste it into your url). See your doctor if you are at all concerned.

Now the good news is if you are carrying a few extra kilos of fat, it appears you will be able to delay the decline of mental functioning caused by excessive levels of fat tissue and even improve current mental functioning if you comply with the following:

· Manage blood pressure & actively avoid weight gain as you age. Why? Some research indicates that controlling mid-life high blood pressure and abdominal obesity may be strategies to reduce mental decline with age [2].

· Exercise and increase physical activity in general. Research[3] states that regular voluntary physical exercise and exercise training can favorably influence brain plasticity (ie the ability for the brain to change in a positive way) and the decline in mental functioning with aging and neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s dementia.

· Ensure an adequate intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acid. Research [4] says that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids can lower the risk of chronic disease.

o Rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids include: salmon, flax seeds and walnuts

o Other sources include soy beans, tofu, virgin olive oil, winter squash, halibut, scallops, prawns and to a lesser extent tuna & kidney & navy beans

NOTE: Frying damages the omega-3s so do not fry your fish or the olive oil. Use the oil in dressings instead.

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  1. [1] 1. Gunstad, J., Paul, R.H., Cohen, R. A., Tate, D. F., Spitznagel, M. B., & Gordon, E. (2007). Elevated body mass index is associated with executive dysfunction in otherwise healthy adults. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 48(1), 57-61
  2. [2] 2. Wolf, P. A., Beiser, A., Elias, Merrill, F., Au, R., Ramachandran, S., & Seshadri, S. (2007) Current Alzheimer Research, 4 (2), 111-116
  3. [3] 3. Dishman, R. K., Berthoud, H-R., Booth, F. W., Cotman, C. W. Edgerton, V. R., Fleshner, M. R., Gandevia, S.C. et al. (2006). Neurobiology of exercise. Obesity, 14, 345-356.
  4. [4] 4. Nutrition & Food Science; September 2007, Vol. 37 Issue: Number 5 p306-312, 7p.

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