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newstasis :: a blog about improving wellness » Blog Archive » What Neuroscience Says About Over Eating

What Neuroscience Says About Over Eating

Doctor Daniel Amen does a lot of research with the brain. Along one of the paths, tracking brain injuries with football players, he uncovered some very interesting things about the human brain:

As weight goes up, brainpower goes down. The size and function of the brain diminishes as BMI goes up….the larger people were, the smaller their frontal lobes were, and that’s a disaster because the frontal lobes run your life! Not only are we finding that overeating and overweight cause changes in the brain, but we’re seeing that brain patterns can influence how we respond to food.

It goes both ways. If you have low frontal-lobe activity, as is common with attention deficit disorder (ADD), for example, you’re much more likely to be obese. The frontal lobes are critical to making decisions such as food choices….

Consider the ramifications of this two way street. We’re born magnificent, capable of developing to our full potential and living a long illness free life. Our prefrontal cortex doesn’t develop until we’re in late childhood / early teenage years and grows throughout puberty - if we make it through most of childhood, there is a very good chance that we can have it all.

But along the way we get fat. It could be that our folks are too busy to cook healthy dinners, they didn’t know what to buy and cook, you were a picky SOB, whatever, you ended-up fat. As a result, your prefrontal cortex does not develop optimally and your brain in general is smaller than it would have been had you remained lean and optimal.

Moving through life, with a smaller brain, you suffer the consequences of having reduced executive functioning. Your working memory isn’t as good, your will power is compromised and your ability to anticipate the consequences and deal with the future just doesn’t hit on all cylinders.

Staying fat is easier because you don’t have the tools needed to think your way out of it, or at least, control your behavior out of it. You may never see a healthy weight again.

I don’t mean to scare you because you do have options here, but if you are over weight or have a tendency to over eat, you may need to consider enrolling an expert in helping you gain the skills needed to reverse the path of destruction you are on. Let them be your proxy until your brain repairs itself and can anticipate and plan for a better future.

2 Responses to “What Neuroscience Says About Over Eating

  • 1
    Kate
    August 22nd, 2012 10:36

    Hi Patrick,
    That is a very interesting blog. My question is, can the damage be fully reversed? If a person is considered morbidly obese, will they see changes in brain function as the pounds come off? I guess once the brain has shrunk, there’s no reversing that.

    Thanks,
    Kate

  • 2
    Pat
    August 22nd, 2012 18:52

    Hi Kate,

    I don’t think that is the case. The brain scans show that brain mass increases as fat mass decreases so someone who shed some of the excess fat would most likely increase their brain size.
    Regardless, the improvement in blood flow and energy will be provide a boost in quality of life!
    Pat