Not only has obesity been shown to cause negative health issues in the developed adult brain, but inflammation resulting from increased visceral fat has also been shown to cause distinct and lasting changes in the brains of children and adolescents, leading to a long-term association between obesity and cognitive function and brain health11.
Obesity and related health conditions are clearly associated with impaired cognitive performance, accelerated cognitive decline and even dementia in later life. Interventions targeting mid-life obesity may prove beneficial in reducing the cognitive risks associated with obesity12.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a condition resulting from chronic inflammation and caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including obesity and excess amounts of stored visceral fat.
The incidence rate of inflammatory bowel disease has consistently increased over the last twenty years, and specifically in developing countries. Researchers attribute this increase in IBD to dietary changes, sedentary lifestyles, and increased obesity rates.
Studies examining the link between obesity and IBD have consistently demonstrated that proinflammatory adipokines released by adipose tissue contribute to the observed correlation between obesity and IBD. Additional research has demonstrated that weight loss disrupts development of IBD and other autoimmune conditions13.
Obesity is associated with increased occurrence of migraine headaches. Specifically, increased levels of body fat, and specifically visceral fat, elevates the secretion of proinflammatory adipokines.
This increase in adipokines has been attributed to increased risk of migraines and migraine inflammation. Lower overall levels of total fat-free mass (FFM) has also demonstrated to be a significant contributor to increased risk of migraines in people who are classified as overweight and obese14.
Scientific research has established a direct correlation between depression and increased amounts of visceral fat, especially in women considered to be obese or overweight.
These studies demonstrate that the presence of increased amounts of visceral fat is an important contributor to depression, as well as further demonstrating depression’s connection to increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Interestingly, the same studies found no association between depression and the presence of subcutaneous fat – only visceral fat.
Researchers attribute the connection between depression and visceral fat directly to the chemical changes caused by the propensity of excess visceral fat to the increased number of proinflammatory proteins secreted into the affected areas of the body15.
In contrast, increased total lean body mass was strongly associated with fewer symptoms of mood disorder, including fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. These findings further suggest a strong correlation between body compositions and mood disorder16.
The presence of visceral fat has also been linked to skin breakouts and skin flare-ups, including eczema, psoriasis, and hives. In expressing these inflammation-induced flare-ups, the skin is typically providing an indication of a health problem elsewhere in the body, most often in the area of the gut, stomach, or liver.
Interestingly, the research found that the people who were obese or overweight were more likely to have eczema than people who were not obese or overweight. In fact, subjects with an elevated body mass index were found to be nearly 10 times more likely to have eczema than those with lower body mass indexes. These findings have led to the conclusion that obesity is associated with increased prevalence and increased severity of eczema, increased chronic health conditions, greater reliance on health care, and overall poor health17.
Psoriasis is often considered a result of an autoimmune condition, but it can be triggered by other factors, including metabolic syndrome and obesity18.
Chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU), more commonly known as hives, is a common skin condition that is often difficult to determine an exact cause. Recent research has suggested that metabolic syndrome and hyperlipidemia, or high levels of fat in the blood, are more prevalent in people with CSU; this finding is a clear indication that hives are associated with inflammation caused by visceral fat and more common in people who are overweight or obese19.