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Being obese doesn’t just increase your risk for hypertension, heart attack, and stroke.
It makes your brain old before its time.
There’s ample proof of this.
Carrying too much fat around the middle reduces your brain’s ability to rewire itself after a stroke or other brain injury. This ability is known as brain plasticity.
And we also know that the brains of obese persons are changed in ways that are alarmingly similar to changes seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
Researchers have tried to find out whether going all the way in the opposite direction could actually help prevent Alzheimer’s.
What if you not only maintained a healthy weight, but worked at developing more lean muscle, too? Would this safeguard your brain?
Science hasn’t found all the answers yet, but evidence is pointing in the direction of “Yes!”
Which comes first, loss of lean muscle or Alzheimer’s?
The connection between obesity and Alzheimer’s has been explained by the fact that with obesity comes inflammation.
Research shows that neuroinflammation is an even bigger trigger of Alzheimer’s than the amyloid-beta plaques often cited as being a cause of Alzheimer’s.
But a lack of lean muscle is also strongly associated with Alzheimer’s.
It has just not been clear whether this lack of lean muscle mass comes before an Alzheimer’s diagnosis or is triggered by the disease.
Loss of lean muscle might play a part in Alzheimer’s
To try and tease this out, a group of researchers used Mendelian randomization to obtain genetic evidence in support of a particular outcome — in this case, that lack of lean muscle precedes Alzheimer’s.
The study was quite thorough. It started with 450,243 participants from the UK Biobank.
Bioimpedance — an electric current that flows at different rates through the body depending on its composition — was used to estimate lean muscle and fat tissue in the arms and legs.
On average, higher lean muscle mass in these areas was associated with a modest but statistically significant reduction in Alzheimer’s disease risk.
This finding was replicated in a separate sample of 7,329 people with, and 252,879 people without, Alzheimer’s disease, this time measuring lean muscle mass in the trunk and whole body.
“These analyses provide new evidence supporting a cause-and-effect relation between lean mass and risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” say the researchers.
In addition, they caution that their findings need to be replicated before they are reliable enough to inform public health or clinical practice.
Start increasing lean muscle mass now
It’s absolutely worth building more lean muscle now — and not just to lessen your risk for Alzheimer’s.
If you’re a woman going through menopause, you’ve probably noticed how much more quickly fat accumulates on your body, and how much harder it is to stay lean. This imbalance of fat and lean muscle dramatically increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Even women in their 30s and 40s can experience this significant loss of skeletal muscle known as sarcopenia, making you more susceptible to falls that end in hip fractures and disability.
Be proactive, whatever your age. Start building your lean muscle mass now, following these tips…
Weight training. Quite simply, strength training can lengthen your life. It will enable you to continue doing simple daily activities like opening jars, climbing stairs, lifting heavy bags of groceries or even just getting up out of a chair. Add omega-3s to your diet. They’ve been found to increase the fat burn and boost lean muscle mass.
Eat more frequently. That’s right! Instead of sitting down to three large meals each day, try to eat five small meals spaced three to four hours apart. This speeds up your metabolism and provides a continuous supply of nutrients to the body.
Drink plenty of water. There are lots of reasons to keep your body well hydrated, and your brain is one them.
Don’t skip meals. It slows your metabolism and your body doesn’t burn fat as efficiently.
Take it slow. Don’t lose more than a pound or two per week. If you’re losing weight at a faster rate, you are most likely losing lean muscle mass along with unwanted fat.
Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!