Last month’s poll: Can the distribution of body fat, hips vs. belly, affect your brain health?

Yes it can. 76% of you were correct. Baycrest scientist explains why where you wear your fat can make a difference.

Location of body fat can put you at risk

It seems that too much fat around your waist can affect not only your heart but also your brain.

“The reason for this is that fat on your hips gets metabolized differently than fat on your belly,” explains Dr. Carol Greenwood, a Baycrest senior scientist and professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto. “We know that people who carry their fat around their belly are more likely to develop obesity associated diseases, specifically high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. All of these are risk factors for developing dementia.”

Although fat on the belly is particularly worrisome, excessive fat is not good, no matter where you are laying it down, warns Dr. Greenwood. “You want to try to keep a healthy body weight as you age.”

Tips to beat body fat

Choose a diet and exercise routine that works for you

“There is a lot of information about different types of popular diets such as high protein, low carbohydrates, etc. No one diet is better than another,” says Dr. Greenwood. “The best predictor of whether or not someone loses weight is how compliant they are to the diet. The type of diet is not important. People need to choose an approach that works for them. Do that in combination with more exercise.”

Exercise is important because it improves brain function by increasing blood flow to the brain. It not only helps you lose weight but it helps your vascular system.

The bottom line is that you should try to maintain a healthy body weight to help keep your heart and brain healthy.


People who carry their fat around their belly are more likely to develop obesity associated diseases such as:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes

These disorders affect the brain in different ways:

  • High blood pressure can cause stroke or small breaks in capillaries which ultimately interfere with brain function
  • High cholesterol leads to narrowing of the arteries which can reduce blood flow (including blood flow to the brain)
  • Type 2 diabetes can cause metabolic disturbances which can accelerate changes to the brain seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

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