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How Obesity Affects Your Brain

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

The brain is the most complex part of the human body. This 3-pound organ is the seat of intelligence interpreter of the senses, initiator of the body movement and controller of behaviour. The human brain is the command centre for the nervous system. All conscious thought, planning, social judgement, and languages are sensed and controlled by the brain. (Tanya Lewis et al.,2021)

Obesity is a complex health condition. It is related to a range of health-related problems such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, (Sophia et al.) Being overweight or Obese, seriously impact brain activity and increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and many other psychiatric and cognitive conditions. (Daniel G Amen et al.,2020). Each cognitive domain was independently associated with childhood maltreatment, depression, parental education, and polygenic scores for depression and educational attainment. (Sophia X et al.)

How does obesity affect the brain?

The link between being obese and the brain has been the subject of intense study since the 1990s. With the help of magnetic resonance imaging, researchers could study the brain of people living with obesity.

A study published in 2014 suggested that being obese could affect the brain's gray matter volume.

A study also revealed that people who tend to over-regulate their food consumption might have a harder time focusing on their plans and goals.

A new study conducted on this finding further supports the link between being obese and the structure of the brain.

Through MRI scans, the team was able to study the relationship between brain structure and obesity. After examining the scans, the researchers were able to confirm their previous studies. They also discovered connections between the structure and appearance of the brain.

For their study, the team wanted to investigate the effects of being obese on the brain. Previous studies had linked being obese to a higher risk of cognitive decline.

Through the Biobank Imaging study, the team could study the gray and white matter of over 11,000 individuals.

The researchers defined the central processing unit of the brain as a region composed of the outer cortex and the inner regions of the white matter. The gray matter is composed of neurons and the white matter is populated by nerve projections known as axons. Being obese has been linked to the reduction of certain structures in the brain, such as the central processing unit.

Although the study revealed that these associations are different for men and women, suggesting that gender is an important modifier of the link between fat percentage and the size of specific brain structures. Men with obesity had smaller gray matter volumes in the regions that deal with reward-related processing circuits.

For women with obesity, the excess body fat is only correlated with the lower volume of a brain region known as the globus pallidus, a brain area that plays a role in voluntary movement.

Role of Hormones

Insulin & Leptin

Insulin resistance can mediate cognitive impairment and neurodegeneration as insulin and IGFs can regulate neuronal survival metabolism and brain plasticity. Insulin resists the failure of cells to metabolise glucose which consequently triggers an increase of insulin level related to early pathology of Alzheimer’s and significant risk of dementia.

Leptin is a cytokine and satiety hormone. Helping regulate appetite and energy expenditure, during obesity leptin production is increased which modulates memory process. It plays a role in long-term potentiation and depression. (chriaming Wang et al.,)

Obese Kids & Brain development

The findings of another recent study showed that the brain’s prefrontal cortex — an area that is important for complex thinking, planning, and self-control — is less active in people who tend to overeat, which may lead to obesity and weight gain. (Ana Sandoiu et al., April 27, 2019) The kids with higher BMI have a Thinner cerebral cortex, especially in the prefrontal area. It affects the decision-making they make an unhealthy dietary choice and may have more food and put up the weight. Prolonged obesity in children has chronic inflammation. Impairment in cognition, verbal fluency, immediate logical memory intelligence, reduced activity, higher dependency on vision during locomotion, short-term memory, learning problem, poor performance, decreased speed, the problem with Psychomotor coordination (Jennifer et al.,2019)

Neuro degenerative Disorders

Obese, overweight may cause the cytokine's secretion and the chemokine that cross the blood-brain barriers and may stimulate microglia Which leads to neuro death. Obesity will damage the various tissues and is related to functional and structural changes of the brain. Obesity is important to risk factor for the onset and progression of various neurodegenerative diseases Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis. These changes can actin synaptic plasticity of neurons and lead to neuronal death affecting normal physiology of the CNS.


Specific’s behaviour pattern has been identified in obese individuals including the lack of initiative, inhibition and self-monitoring which can be expressed as apathy impulsivity and Poor behaviour control. Compared to normal-weight individuals and obese have a reduced life span. (Crick Gomez et al.,2021). The human brain contains white matter in its deeper parts. White matter helps us in learning and picking up skills, however, its levels gradually decrease with age. Now, studies have shown that obesity makes a person’s brain age more quickly.

Obese people are shown to have lesser white matter in their brains as compared to those with normal weight.

We relate weight loss to better brain and cognitive outcomes and cognitive impairment because obesity is reversible with proper lifestyle modification, proper diet, sleep, stress management. It is an integrated approach. We @ESCASO have many such documented cases where we see a surreal improvement in academic and personal life with the addition of real foods based on real science. Let's hold our hands together to a healthier future.

Healthy Regards


Nutritionist @ ESCASO



1. Ana Sandoiu on April 27, 2019 — Fact checked by Isabel Godfrey

2. Chriaming Wang john sv Chan/ obesity reduces cognitive and motor function across the life span.

3. Daniel G amen, Joseph Wu noble George, Andrew new berg, /science daily, the pattern of regional cerebral blood flow as a function of obesity in adults Aug 5, 2020.

4. Erick Gómez apo, Alejandra Mondragon Maya, Martina Ferrari Diaz, and Juan Silva pereyra,/ brain basis know your brain, 10 Jul. 2021.

5. Hirofumi Tanaka, Drew D Gourley, Maria Dekhtyar, Andreanna P Haley

Cognition, brain structure, and brain function in individuals with obesity and related disorders, Current Obesity Reports, 1-6, 2020

6. Jennifer Laurent et al., JAMA paediatrics / Neuroscience. Association among body mass index cortical thickness and executive function in children. 2019.

7. Sophia x sui and Julie A pasio, Medicine multi-disciplinary digital institute. Obesity and brain function.

8. Tanya Lewis, Ashley P, Taylor / Facts, function and anatomy of the human brain, May 29, 2021.

9. Lauren Sharkey: Central obesity linked to brain shrinkage.


It is difficult to live a healthy life and keep your weight under control, especially at this fast pace of life. Most of us don’t know where to manage lifestyle diseases or losing weight.

Grinto Davy is an orthopaedic physiotherapist, Clinical Nutritionist and Health & Wellness Coach by profession, but he is a motivator and a Nutritionist. He founded ESCASO® to create awareness about health, nutrition, and lifestyle, and he is the author of ESCASO CODDE and developed a unique lifestyle program called GDDiET®

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We based the program on 3 key elements, which are knowledge, motivation and personal support. ESCASO® is a powerful wellness program for creating better health habits that help to prevent lifestyle diseases and manage overweight. If you are interested and want to know more about this program, you can book an online consultation with us.

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GDDiET® Masterclass- is an online health & lifestyle learning platform developed by Grinto Davy Chirakekkaren, Founder of ESCASO® - Body & Beyond, Author of ESCASO CODE, Orthopaedic physiotherapist, Clinical nutritionist, Health & Wellness Coach that helps people to live healthier by guiding them to improve their diet, psychology of eating, sleep, mental health, exercise habits and stress management. This unique Masterclass combines the power of daily micro-learning with a community for learning, support and sharing. For More Details, click the link below.

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