What We Learned from the Weight of 20,000 Mental Health Patients

What We Learned from the Weight of 20,000 Mental Health Patients


Everybody knows that maintaining a healthy weight can be beneficial for physical health, but what does the weight of your body have to do with your brain function and mental health? At Amen Clinics, we analyzed the brain SPECT scans (SPECT measures the brain’s blood flow and activity) of 20,000 of our patients to see how body mass index (BMI) impacts brain activity.

The results were mind-blowing.

Weight Gain = Brain Drain

In our analysis, it was clear that as a person’s weight went up, all the regions of the brain went down in activity and blood flow, in a linear correlation.

Here is just one graph showing how blood flow and activity went down in the prefrontal cortex.  1 = underweight; 2 = normal weight; 3 = overweight; 4 = obese; 5 = morbidly obese

Take note that although this chart shows that activity was highest in people who are underweight, this doesn’t mean that being underweight is healthy. Being underweight is associated with a number of health risks, including nutritional deficiencies, reduced immune function, fertility issues, and a lack of protein reserves in case you get into an accident. It just doesn’t seem to shrink your brain.

What’s Wrong with Low Brain Activity?

Having low blood flow and activity across the entire brain is terrible for psychological wellbeing, mental clarity, and cognitive function. A “sleepy” brain is associated with

  • increased risk-taking
  • poor judgment
  • impulsiveness
  • low motivation
  • slowed thought processes
  • trouble problem-solving
  • memory problems

Low blood flow on SPECT has been seen with depression, suicide, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADD/ADHD, traumatic brain injury, hoarding, murder, substance abuse, seizure activity, and more. Low blood flow is the #1 brain imaging predictor that a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Your Brain Is What You Eat

What this analysis shows is that a junk-food diet leads to a junk-food body and a junk-food brain. Eating pizza and Doritos, drinking Coke or Budweiser, stopping at fast-food joints—it’s the American way! But the Standard American Diet (SAD) is making us fat. The latest statistics show that 70% of Americans are considered overweight and 40% fall into the obese category.

A wealth of research shows that excess fat on your body is not your friend. Studies in the Archives of General Psychiatry and Psychosomatic Medicine show that obesity is detrimental to mental health and is associated with a greater risk of depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia (fear of going out), and addictions. Untreated ADHD, lower self-esteem, and poor body image are also associated with being overweight. And research in the American Journal of Public Health shows that among women, increased BMI is also linked to a rise in suicidal thoughts.

The Good News from Analyzing Over 160,000 Brain Scans

Although the results of our analysis on 20,000 of our patients is distressing, there is hope. The most important lesson we’ve learned from treating tens of thousands of patients and reviewing over 160,000 brain scans is that even if you’ve been bad to your brain and have been consuming a SAD diet, you can change your brain and heal your mind.

The scientific community is finally beginning to see how food is so strongly linked to brain health and mental wellbeing. In 2015, a group of 18 scientists concluded that “the emerging and compelling evidence for nutrition as a crucial factor in the high prevalence and incidence of mental disorders suggests that diet is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology.”

Adopting brain healthy eating habits can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight and boost your brain function. Count your calories, eat colorful fruits and vegetables, and help your body, brain, and mind get healthy.

At Amen Clinics, we take a unique brain-body approach to diagnosis and treatment that includes brain SPECT imaging, as well as laboratory testing to check physical health, weight and diet assessments, and other important factors that could be contributing to symptoms. By getting to the root cause of your symptoms, we can create a more effective, personalized treatment plan for you.

If you want to join the tens of thousands of people who have already enhanced their brain health, overcome their symptoms, and improved their quality of life at Amen Clinics, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.


1 Comment »

  1. How to know if you are underweight?

    Comment by Eduard — March 2, 2022 @ 3:49 AM

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