Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Body-Brain Connection: When Bigger Really is Better

brain“As your weight goes up, the size and function of your brain goes down.” This, according to psychiatrist, Daniel Amen. It’s true, smaller doesn’t always mean better, especially when it comes to the size of your brain!

Dr. Amen, author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Body, wants us all to get on his brain program and avoid what he calls the “Dinosaur Syndrome.” Yes, dinosaurs, those creatures with little brains and big bodies. Apparently some of us fit the description. Our bodies are growing in size, but are brains are getting smaller.

When a person is overweight, brain function decreases, especially in the area know as the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex in the brain  is responsible for impulse control, decision-making and other reasoning functions. So when you see that large scrumptious piece of chocolate cake, your overweight brain may say, “Go for it!” When you are confronted with multiple choices of tempting concoctions at that buffet, reason goes out the window. You give in and eat!

And to add insult to injury, when Dr. Amen imaged overweight brains, he found that the overweight brain also appears to be more typical of older people. To use the dinosaur metaphor, not only are our bodies bigger, our brains smaller , but like the dinosaur, our brains appear older! You might be thinking, “Great, is there any good news here?”

Yes. With so many of us overweight, Dr. Amen says exercise can help increase gray matter and even help avoid dementia in some cases. He also advocates a healthy diet that includes eliminating sugars, too much alcohol and processed foods. You can make lifestyle choices to not only improve your brain, but make it bigger. In this case, bigger is better!

As usual, the solution here is one that you have heard repeatedly–eat better and exercise more. There seems to be no way around this tried and true advice. So if you want a bigger brain that functions along with your age, get on that treadmill, walk the dog and commit to those five servings of fruits and vegetables we all need daily. When you do, your expanded brain will thank you!

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