Expending Calories May Expand Brain Cells

A recent study out of UCLA showed that older people who burned the most calories had the most gray matter. Using MRIs and 3-D pictures, researchers measured cerebral cortex volume in the brains of 876 adults aged 69 to 95. The size of the cerebral cortex is associated with degenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

As the U.S. population ages, the number of degenerative disease diagnoses is expected to triple. The most active participants, those who burned off an average of 3,434 calories per week, had 5% more volume of cerebral cortex on average than the least active participants, who only burned off 348 calories per week. ” Though this doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect link, it does show a correlation between aerobic activity and more voluminous brains. “Virtually all of the activities examined in this study are some variation of aerobic physical activity, which we know from other work can improve cerebral blood flow and strengthen neuronal connections,” neurologist Joshua Willey, who was not a part of the research team, says. Dave Knopman, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Neurology, gives the aerobic theory a thumbs-up: “People who are active are also less likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, are less likely to be obese or have heart disease, all conditions associated with an increased risk of getting dementia.”

Click here to read the USA Today article on the research, click here to read the abstract, and click here to read the press release from the Radiological Society of North America