Excess body fat has never been thought of as a good thing, and now new research is showing it is probably worse than originally thought. In a new study the researchers found that excess body fat increased inflammatory cytokines (specifically Interleukin-1 beta or IL-1b) in the body and also the brain. The hippocampus was one of the most affected areas making this inflammatory situation all the more alarming. The hippocampus is pivotal in forming memories and is one of the most important structures in relation to Alzheimer's and dementia. It is extremely sensitive to stress hormones and now it appears is also very sensitive to inflammation. Preserving hippocampal function and health should be one of the tenants of all brain health strategies. 

It was originally thought that the body and the brain were separate and inflammation and other toxic chemicals couldn't pass into the brain because of the blood brain barrier. This has since been debunked and now we know inflammatory molecules, like IL-1b, breakdown this barrier and infiltrate the brain. This study proved this and found when inflammation increases in the body it also increases proportionally in the brain. To make things worse it appears very important structures associated with memory are hit the hardest.

This is even more alarming when we look at the daily life and health of the typical American. We have an overly processed, toxic, genetically modified, highly inflammatory diet with Alzheimer's and dementia increasingly becoming a disease affecting 50% of people reaching old age. Omega 6:Omega 3 ratios have been recorded to be as high as 50:1 in the US population. This ratio has been reported being as low as 1:1 in the hunter-gatherers. Omega 3s are deficient in the Standard American Diet (SAD) and are very potent inflammation fighters. It is no wonder as we become more inflamed our brain is deteriorating at frightening rates. 

Don't worry. There is also good news found from this study as well as many other lifestyle studies. This study tested exercise and brain inflammation and found, even without fat loss, exercise negated the negative effects on the hippocampus from the systemic inflammation. This means you can fight brain inflammation with exercise initially and over time lead an anti-inflammatory lifestyle, lose the excess fat, exercise and take extra anti-inflammatory nutrients like omega 3s to fight brain inflammation. 

Make this year a brain year. Do everything you can to get lean, lose the inflammation and improve your brain health. 

Dr. Kurt Waples, Bluestone Health Group founder


J Neurosci. 2014 Feb 12;34(7):2618-31. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4200-13.2014. PMID: 24523551

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