Obesity and the Brain: The Exercise Connection

For years, conventional wisdom has been that exercise helps control weight by simply burning calories. But it appears that it does much more than that.

Last year, Arthur Kramer, Ph.D., did some groundbreaking studies at the University of Illinois. His research found that merely 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise three to five times a week could increase the size of the brain. The mechanism? A powerful chemical called Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF). Harvard Professor of Psychiatry John Ratey, M.D., has called this substance “Miracle-Gro for the brain.”

According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, BDNF may help regulate calorie intake. People with low levels of the chemical have a considerably greater risk of being overweight.

This new study isn’t the first time a connection between obesity and BDNF has been noted. In a 2007 study in Neuroscience, researchers removed the BDNF gene in two of the appetite-regulating areas of the brains of mice. They promptly became fat!

But genes aren’t destiny. Researchers were able to get the mice back to normal weight by restricting their food intake.

It’s always easier to eat less food if you aren’t too hungry. So why not boost levels of a natural compound – BDNF – that could help control your appetite in the first place? Especially when you can increase your BDNF levels so easily… with basic, everyday exercise.

[Ed. Note: Natural methods – including plain old exercise – can have a powerful effect on your health. For more natural ways to feel better and live longer, check out nutrition expert Jonny Bowden’s book The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth.]