Your tummy vs the brain

Dr Yousuf Ali al Mulla –

Aging brings changes to our bodies more than we desire to have. At the same time, the more we know about what happens, the more we can take steps to do something about it!
The question in this regard is whether you have an extra weight around your waist or you are worried about a pot belly or tummy pooch.
If your answer is ‘yes’ to this question, this means you are carrying fat that makes a negative difference and affects your health. Belly fat is one of the signs that you might have an unhealthy amount of visceral fat, which deposits deep in the belly area and settles behind the abdominal muscles around our vital organs.
Subsequently, this visceral fat puts out a substance that increases inflammation in the body and that’s why we call it belly fat, which is associated with insulin resistance and diabetes, heart disease, cancer of the breast or even pancreas.
We know that fat belly has been thought to be bad for our heart, but new studies suggest that it may also be bad for our brain.
Unfortunately, it was found that people who were obese and high waist ratio have slightly lower brain volumes. Here I need to mention that belly fat is linked to lower volumes of gray matter (the brain tissue that contains nerve cells).
Sadly, this study expresses how we need to think and consider reducing the belly fat as it raises the risk of memory decline and development of dementia.
The studies did not look at the potential mechanism linking visceral fat and brain shrinkage, which could be one of hypothesis that can explain how this type of fat can produce inflammatory substances that may play a role in brain size.
From my own overview and looking at various related studies, I believe that more studies needed to tease out the reason for such link, as why it is not in the opposite direction? What I mean, that’s why people with lower volume or shrinkage brain are at high risk of obesity.
There are plenty of researches which have detected factors affecting our brain volume, including age, smoking and high blood pressure. So, what I would call it a dangerous fat won’t be the case?
I know this may all sound daunting, but still there is good news. While subcutaneous fat is notoriously difficult to shed, but still visceral fat responds more easily to diet and exercise changes. However, have you considered that you may be at risk?
Just break out the tape measure to see how you are doing. I would advise here, to wrap the tape measure around your abdomen, just above your hip bone. Men with waist circumference of more than 40 inches and women with more than 35 inches may be at increased risk for visceral fat! Finally, I would encourage everyone to eat soluble fibre and participate in moderate activity that can help in reducing visceral fat. You can find the soluble fibre in oatmeal, fruits, vegetables and beans.
Moreover, our bodies are designed to move, so get out and start walking around!

Dr Yousuf Ali Almulla, MD, Ministry of Health. He is a medical innovator and educator. For any queries regarding the content of the column, he can be contacted at: dryusufalmulla@gmail.com