Can a Lean Waist Strengthen Your Mind?

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Originally posted on October 2, 2014.

Everything psychological is biological. Stress wreaks havoc on our immune system, increasing our risk for many diseases. Psychological disorders can make us feel physically sick. We feel the sting of rejection as real pain. Might a healthier body help us have a stronger mind?

To find out, a group of Brazilian researchers recruited a group of women who underwent bariatric bypass surgery. Before and after their surgery, the women completed a measure of executive function — a test of how well people manage their mental processes.

Not surprisingly, the bariatric bypass surgery caused the women to lose weight. It also reduced their inflammation and boosted brain activity in regions associated with cognitive function. But the coolest finding was that the women’s executive functioning improved. A healthier body related to a stronger mind.

No matter how disconnected our mind and body might seem, they are close friends who rely on each other for everything. By improving our physical health, we can change not only the shape of our bodies but also strengthen our minds.

About the Author
C. Nathan DeWall is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Social Psychology Lab at the University of Kentucky. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from St. Olaf College, a Master’s Degree in Social Science from the University of Chicago, and a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Florida State University. DeWall received the 2011 College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award, which recognizes excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching. In 2011, the Association for Psychological Science identified DeWall as a “Rising Star” for “making significant contributions to the field of psychological science.”