Increased Body Fat Makes the Brain Shrink Faster

December 23, 2019

Increased Body Fat Makes the Brain Shrink Faster

References: NewsweekAging Research ReviewsCell MetabolismFrontiers in NeurologyNature MedicineFrontiers in Physiology,

There is beginning to be a robust literature that goes as follows, your brain shrinks as your waistline gets bigger. Simple. Plain. Awful.

This week's study is from England looking at 4,431 adults over 6 years with a variety of measurements, including body mass index muscle mass and "fluid intelligence." Women with more lean muscle mass had better fluid intelligence. Part of that showed up with lower white counts in folks with smaller waist sizes. It appears that biological age (related strongly to muscle-to fat-ratio is more important than chronological age at predicting brain function. (Fluid intelligence is defined as the ability to solve problems and think logically in novel situations. You want it.) 

But there are many more. A couple of months ago researchers from Yale published an article showing that a high fat, high carb diet (Ours, here in America.) activates all the wrong things in your brain leading to inflammation. Half your brain is computer chips, called neurons or brain cells, and the other half are glia. The glial are the insulation and protectors of the computer chips. Part of them are called micro-glia and they are in charge of immune activation. They can be little tigers when needed. They act like white blood cells out in the periphery but they don't move. They have the same surface activating proteins on them as white cells, so they really are part of the white blood cell community. A high fat diet activates a protein called UCP2, or uncoupling protein, that shinks the mitochondria in the hypothalamus, your metabolism control center.. Your brain gets the wrong message. It thinks you need to eat more. So, you do. You get fatter.

But it's even more nuanced and complicate than that. It's the health of your gut too, as 70% of your immune system is around your gut. Inflame your gut, and you set off your immune system in the microglia in your brain. Your gut, your brain and your immune system are one integrated team.

And finally, what your metabolism is yearning for, aching for, begging for is beta-hydroxybutyrate, the ketone you make when you run on fat, or lose weight. It's also the ketone you make when you eat green vegetables. It's the ketone that disappears for up to 36 hours when you eat one mouthful of sugar, one quarter of an apple, one 3 oz sweet potato, 3 French fries. I know because I have measured my beta-hydroxybutyrate with a finger stick when on my 5 day fast mimicking diet and I've had all those things happen to me. But if I eat a triple portion of spinach, or Brussel's sprouts, my beta-HB doesn't budge. The bacteria in my colon make green vegetables into beta_HB, just like gorillas. Green vegetables are effectively not carbs, they are a unique form of fat - short chain fatty acids, that is. And they have no impact on insulin, or your microglia. In fact, au contraire, they heal the damage caused by the double layered hamburger with bacon you had for lunch. 

And that brings us back to insulin, the hormone you secrete when you eat too much meat, one mouthful of potato, rice, bread or sugar, or the flavor sweet. Insulin is the final Darth Vadar of nutrition. Insulin resistance is at the core of cognitive decline.

WWW: What will work for me. This should be easy. My brain is aching for me to allow it to run on Beta-hydroxybutyrate instead of glucose. If I can last more than 12 hours every night, my BHB level is 0.1. By 14 hours I'm often up to 0.7. I don't get to 3.0 until I pass 48 hours, but that is with eating 800 calories a day of green vegetables and fat. So, an overnight fast with compressing my calories into 8-10 hours, my brain gets healing BHB every night. Once a month, I can blast off for 5 days and really get a dose. Now, all I have to do is exercise and keep my lean body mass fit and trim. New Year’s Resolution I plan to keep.

Pop Quiz

  1. As a general rule, there is a correlation here between waist size and what? Answer: Brain size, inversely set. Put on weight, your brain gets smaller.  
  2. Fluid intelligence is? Answer: The ability to solve new problems in unfamiliar surroundings.
  3. What's the team of three organ systems that sets the inflammation in your brain? Answer: Brain, Immune and GI. 
  4. What proportion of your brain is actually white blood cells? Answer: Roughly 50%
  5. What class of foods are best for your brain? Answer: Green, above ground vegetables. They get digested into beta-hydroxybutyrate (bHB) to a large degree by the bacteria in your gutl. bHB has no impact on insulin, so insulin drops.