Staying lean is one of the best strategies to maintain a healthy functioning brain on a number of different levels. It has been known for years that excess body fat, and the conditions associated with it like diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer, greatly impact the brain. New research is being published documenting the drastic changes in obese brains versus lean brains.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that obese woman who lost fat very drastically through weight loss surgery improved glucose metabolism and cognitive function in the brain. I do not condone weight loss surgery as the failure rate at 5 years post surgery is 50%, in addition to all the other negative effects from cutting out feet of digestive system, but the results of fat loss tell a very important story.

Excess fat has been associated with increased cognitive decline and is a major risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. This partly is due to the inflammatory effects of excess fat and the effects of insulin resistance.

The brains of obese individuals were found to have increased glucose metabolism in the posterior cingulate gyrus. This is the same area of the brain affected first in dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Having increased glucose metabolism in the brain may seem like a good thing at first glance. The brain is consuming more energy, thus it must be functioning at a higher level? WRONG. The executive function tests reveal this is not the case, and science tells us a different story. Researchers have found this increased metabolism system essentially burns out the inhibitory mechanisms leading to over stimulation and eventually burnout. This is similar to what happens with insulin resistance. The brain becomes less metabolically active, leading to brain decline. Consuming too much energy is not a good thing when it comes to the brain.

The lean individuals had lower glucose metabolism in the posterior cingulate gyrus and high cognitive and executive function. A healthy and highly functioning brain does not need excess glucose metabolism to function optimally. A balanced body composition leads to balanced energy metabolism in the brain and ultimately an optimized brain.

Healthy lifestyle and diet modification are the gold standard for improved insulin and blood sugar handling and are the only way to truly improve health while losing fat. Most weight loss programs do not measure all the necessary components of body composition, therefore cannot confirm what is being lost in the weight loss program (water, muscle, fat etc.,). My practice measures over 20 different body composition markers to maximize efficiency and clinical effectiveness. 

If dementia, Alheimer’s and cognitive decline worry you, or if you know someone who is experiencing this tragedy, it is time to assess lifestyle and body composition. Research is now supporting what has been common knowledge in the integrative medicine community forever; a healthy, lean body leads to a healthy, highly functioning brain.

Get lean to maximize your brain!

-Dr. Kurt Waples, Bluestone Health Group Founder


J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Nov;99(11):E2347-52. doi: 10.1210/jc.2014-2068. Epub 2014 Aug 26. PMID: 25157409