If your waistline’s getting bigger, it means your brain’s getting smaller. That’s the upshot of a recent study that found a link between belly size and brain size. In fact, the weight-related drop in brain volume is so dramatic that for every 1-point increase in body mass index, scientists say you’ll experience a 1-point decrease in memory. Why? 

  • For one thing: Belly fat – which is the visceral fat that builds up around your organs - releases hormones that increase inflammation, and damage brain cells.

  • Another way being overweight affects our brain: It causes food “addiction.” University of California researchers found that gaining weight makes us less sensitive to the brain’s happiness-boosting chemical, dopamine. So, just like drug addicts, overweight people need to increasingly eat more food to get the same level of satisfaction they got before. 

  • Also: Excess fat makes us more impulsive. Researchers at the New York University School of Medicine compared the MRIs of overweight children to those of thin ones. The result? The region of the brain that controls impulses is smaller in heavier kids. And the smaller the area, the more likely we are to eat impulsively. Which can turn overeating into a vicious circle of overeating, weight gain, and less impulse control.

If you’re working to lose weight, experts say it’s important to avoid quick-fix diets, and find a healthy eating plan you can follow for life. Because a study in the Journal of Neuroscience found that yo-yo dieters are more likely to turn to food for comfort when they’re feeling stressed.