Weight gain affects people’s health in many ways, and a latest study conducted at Loughborough University says that an expanding waistline could probably shrink the size of your brain.

Researchers measured body mass index and waist-to-hip ratios of 9,652 people with an average age of 55 and found that people with higher proportions of both had the lowest brain volume. The study is published in an online issue of Neurology, the peer-reviewed medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

About 1,000 participants that had high BMI and waist-to-hip ratios had the lowest average of grey matter in the brain that manages self-control, muscle control and sensory perception, compared to the 3,000 participants of healthy weights that had an average amount of grey matter. About 500 participants with a high BMI but not a high waist-to-hip ratio also had an average amount of grey matter.

The study author Mark Hamer says, ‘It’s unclear if abnormalities in brain structure lead to obesity or if obesity leads to these changes in the brain. We also found links between obesity and shrinkage in specific regions of the brain. This will need further research, but it may be possible that someday regularly measuring BMI and waist-to-hip ratio may help determine brain health.’

Also read: Excess belly fat could shrink your brain

The grey matter in the brain contains most of the brain’s 100 billion nerve cells, and the white matter contains nerve fibres that connect the brain regions. The study shows excess weight is not linked to the white matter present in the brain but is associated with shrinkage of a few areas like the pallidum, nucleus accumbens, putamen and caudate. All these areas play an essential role in the feelings of motivation and reward. Therefore, managing weight issues is vital for not only a healthy body but also a healthy mind.