Weight loss: Can losing weight actually make you smarter?

Losing weight can increase your brain's plasticity, which helps your learning capacity and recovery from brain damage

How to lose weight from your hips: Women running
(Image credit: Getty)

We know losing weight is beneficial for lots of reasons. It reduces your risk of early death from all causes, improves your heart health, protects your joints... the list goes on. However, one unexpected benefit you might not know about is the fact losing weight could also improve your brain health.

It's true: scientists from the University of South Australia looked at obesity and its effect on brain plasticity. This doesn't mean the brain's ability to stretch like playdough: rather, brain plasticity refers to our brain's abilities to adapt and change as a result of experience. The brain creates new neural pathways as it rewires itself.

The scientists found a link between obesity and reduced brain plasticity, which could seriously affect not just our capacity to learn and change, but limit the brain's recovery in the case of damage causes by problems like strokes.  

UniSA researcher Dr Brenton Hordacre said: "Obesity is already associated with a raft of adverse health effects, including a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders and dementia." 

"For the first time, we found that obesity was associated with impaired brain function, adding further support for the need to address the obesity epidemic.

Walking to lose weight

(Image credit: Unsplash)

Losing weight is very important for healthy brain ageing in people suffering from obesity: our brains naturally lose plasticity as we age, but this rate of loss is set to increase if you're carrying too much extra weight.

There's loads of ways to get started on your weight loss journey, even if you're short on time and resources. One very simple way is by walking to lose weight. It's easy to incorporate into your day: you can walk for pleasure round the block, or forgo the bus and walk to your destination instead. 

Although more intense forms of exercise are often recommended for weight loss, walking is a great way to begin incorporating exercise into your day. Just 30 minutes of walking can burn over 100 calories, in addition to lots of cardiac, mobility and circulatory benefits.  

You can also start adjusting your diet with simple food swaps: for example, switching out your red meat-based dinners for chicken or fish. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found red meat consumption was related to a lower metabolic rate in adult women, which meant they were more likely to suffer from weight gain and conditions like diabetes later in life.

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Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.