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Brain Health and Obesity are linked. What can you do?

Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition


Obesity is a global epidemic that has astronomical consequences for the health of over 2.1 billion adults and the overall society. Unhealthy diets with nutrient-poor, calorie rich diets and physical inactivity are the main contributing factors for the development and perpetuation of obesity. The western diet causes repetitive strain and dysregulation to brain function. It impairs the key metabolic hormone, leptin, and many other hormones, causing weight gain. Many important plant-based nutrients and essential fatty acids naturally protect and support healthy weight by optimizing your brain health and hormone status.


Dietary Repetitive Strain


Repetitive strain - you may think about this effect with joints and overuse syndromes. Your brain, however, is also susceptible to repetitive strain. Many things strain brain tolerance, such as sleep deprivation and disorders, high stress, excess alcohol, and especially unhealthy dietary choices. Daily choices of high calorie, sugar-rich, high saturated fat, nutrient poor foods over months, years, and a lifetime cause sustained pro-inflammatory stress to the hypothalamus of your brain.


It is now well established in medical literature that chronic dietary induced inflammatory stress to the brain is a primary cause of obesity. The Western Diet/Standard American Diet/Cafeteria Diet leads to leptin and insulin resistance in the hypothalamus and disrupts metabolic activities through out the body.


Furthermore, over-consumption of calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods disrupts and impairs mitochondrial activities and hormone regulation that affects metabolic signals in the hypothalamus and entire body. Higher amounts of free radicals are produced causing tissue stress.


In addition, the lack of antioxidant reserves from an unhealthy diet further exacerbates mitochondria oxidative stress, increases free radical production, and underlies the metabolic fallout. A chronic unhealthy diet creates a slow-moving destructive metabolic avalanche to your hypothalamus, mitochondria, hormones, and overall metabolism, resulting in obesity.


Repetitive dietary strain and chronic, low-grade obesity-induced inflammation also impacts other parts of your brain including the cortex, brainstem, and hippocampus. Imaging studies show that parts of the brain atrophy with obesity. Advanced age, poor blood flow, and dysregulated blood sugar worsen brain atrophy.


This ultimately affects your mood, memory, focus, cognition, balance and coordination, appetite regulation, mental and physical energy, and much more. It leads to a chronic cycle of fatigue, blood sugar issues, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disorders, immune dysregulation, build-up of fat in the liver, destruction to cartilage, bones, and joints, and much more.


Additional information may be found in these previous articles:


Western Diet Causes Cycle of Brain Damage and Obesity


Elevated Leptin, Autoimmune Disorders, and Chronic Inflammation


Diabetes Speeds Up Brain Shrinkage


How Poor Maternal Nutrition Causes Later Life Obesity