UBP blog

09/02/2009

This is your brain on obesity

Filed under: Wellness — ubpblogger @ 8:18 am
Tags: , ,

Most of us remember the Partnership for a Drug Free America’s fried egg commercial and its tagline this is your brain; this is your brain on drugs.” The brain in this commercial obviously looked like a fried egg and communicated the dangers of drug abuse. If you abuse drugs it will “fry” your brain.

A similar philosophy could be applied to obesity in light of recent findings from a UCLA study.

Researchers conducted brain scans of 94 individuals in their 70s and found that:

  • Obese people had 8 percent less brain tissue than normal weight individuals and their brains appeared 16 years older than those of their normal weight counterparts.
  • Overweight people had 4 percent less brain tissue than normal weight individuals and their brains appeared 8 years older than those of their normal weight counterparts.

From these findings you can see that your brain on obesity would look like something that is old and shrunken, possibly like an egg that has been overcooked.

What this means for employers:

The study’s findings from older adults in their 70s are actually fairly relevant to today’s workplaces (much more so than they were in the past). That’s because number of adults over 65 years old is growing at a faster rate than our nation’s overall population and many people are not retiring until their 70s (or even 80s).

Also, aging of the brain doesn’t happen overnight. One can speculate that if a doctor did brain scans of obese, overweight and normal weight people in their 40s and 50s, the overweight and obese people would have already lost noticeably more brain tissue on average than their normal weight counterparts.

As you can see, if you want your employees to stay at their best and brightest through all the years of their careers, it’s vital for them to make healthy lifestyle choices starting now.

Study also links obesity to higher risk of Alzheimer’s:

According to UCLA professor of neurology Paul Thompson, the senior author of this study, the major losses in brain tissue experienced by obese (and even overweight) people put them at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

This is bad news for many of us, especially in light of the fact that according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), 34 percent of U.S. adults were obese as early as 2004 (and roughly 34% of adults were overweight).

 Reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s:

The good news however is that we all have a way to decrease our risk of Alzheimer’s. We can do this by keeping a good diet (and staying away from processed foods), staying fit and taking all other proactive measures for weight control.

 HR Professionals, do you want to help your employees reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s Disease at little cost to your company?

If your answer is “yes”, you should consider putting into place a workplace wellness program with quarterly Body Mass Index (BMI) screenings and employee access to coaching on proper nutrition and fitness, as well as weight loss support groups for workers who want to lose weight (and reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s) together.

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