Is Belly Fat Bad for your Brain?

How Belly Fat Affects Your BrainIt is well-publicized that obesity is a national epidemic, and can raise the risk of deadly health conditions. According to newer research, obesity and diabetes (which often go hand-in-hand) is bad not only for the body, but also for the brain. Scientific evidence now suggests surplus fat can raise the risk of conditions that lead to cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease.

However, it’s not the surplus weight itself that is bad for the brain; rather, it’s the type and location of the fat that’s important. Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is the most dangerous. “The more we understand about adipose tissue, the more clear it becomes that belly fat is its own disease-generating organism,” according to Dr. Lenore Launer of the National Institute on Aging.

Excess belly fat wraps itself around the organs, causes the abdomen to protrude and produces molecules that can pass into the brain and interact with it, affecting cognitive function. Studies show that excess belly fat is a bigger risk factor than general obesity for conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and premature death.

Exercise and Surgical Fat Removal Improve Cognition in Obese Mice

Dr. Alexis Stranahan and her team from Georgia Regents University have made some interesting findings in their research of obese mice. Older studies show that mice specially bred to become obese and diabetic performed worse on memory tests than normal mice.

Earlier this year, Dr. Stranahan’s team conducted further research and published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The team found that the cognitive decline of obese and diabetic mice could be reversed with regular exercise or surgical fat removal (liposuction).

The team looked at several groups of mice; some mice were obese and some were of normal weight. The obese mice were forced to exercise on a treadmill 5-10 kilometers a week. After three months, the mice demonstrated improved cognitive function and better memory.

The team also performed a standard liposuction procedure on another group of obese mice, removing about 15 to 20 percent of the mice’s body fat. Those mice showed similar improvements in cognitive function.

The scientists did not stop there. They then transplanted the liposuctioned fat into normal mice of healthy weight. Those mice immediately started showing changes in their brain structure and function.

Exercise and surgery were shown to lower the levels of an inflammatory molecule associated with the excess fat and diabetes.

Will This Work for Humans?

“I don’t think really drastic liposuction is going to be an effective therapeutic strategy,” said Dr. Stranahan, citing the fact that her team removed 15 to 20 percent of the mouse’s body weight, which is much more fat than typical liposuction in humans.

Any reputable plastic surgeon will agree. Liposuction is not intended as a weight loss tool for humans. Plastic surgeons will not perform the procedure on obese patients to help them lose weight. Diet and exercise are far better strategies for fat reduction.

However, certain plastic surgery procedures, like abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) can be helpful to individuals who have lost significant amounts of weight, and are left with excess loose skin around the abdomen.

Dr. Gregory Dumanian offers abdominoplasty in Chicago. Liposuction may be incorporated into abdominoplasty to remove small amounts of fat and achieve a more flattering abdominal contour. Dr. Dumanian cautions that abdominoplasty is not intended for very heavy patients. Ideally, candidates should be at or close to their target weight, and should be confident that they can maintain their weight following surgery. Future weight gain could compromise the results of surgery.

Contact Dr. Dumanian Today

If you have recently lost a large amount of weight and are interested in abdominoplasty to improve the contours of your midsection, please contact Dr. Dumanian to learn more. Call 312-695-1999 or send us an email.