Your Prefrontal Cortex May Affect Weight Loss – Woman's World

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Shed pounds while boosting your brain health.
Limiting fattening foods and oversized portions from your diet gets you one step closer to your 2023 weight loss goals. The only problem? Those delicious foods and portion sizes are sometimes hard to resist. Fortunately, psychiatrist Daniel Amen, MD, offers a solution to unhealthy eating habits that also involves boosting your brain health. He notes that using easy strategies to strengthen the prefrontal cortex (PFC) — the area behind your forehead — “can work like gastric bypass for your brain.”
Dr. Amen came to this realization while analyzing more than 200,000 patient brain scans. “The same way gastric bypass restricts the amount of food you want to eat, a strong prefrontal cortex activates your internal portion controller and cravings buster,” he says. In fact, readers experimenting with Dr. Amen’s tricks report losing substantial weight.
And the PFC doesn’t just regulate portion control. “It’s the CEO of your brain,” Dr. Amen explains. “It supervises your behavior and is involved in all planning, decision-making, impulse control and followthrough. When the PFC works right, you work right. You’ll make better decisions about your job, finances, relationships — really everything.”
Research in the journal Environment and Behavior suggests that people make over 200 decisions a day about food — most of which we’re unaware of. This provides insight into why a 2019 study found that enhanced PFC activity help 20 out of 38 total participants lose weight within four weeks. “Weight loss is a pleasant ‘side effect’ when you optimize your PFC,” Dr. Amen says.
Why might your PFC be struggling? Culprits include stress, poor sleep, a diet that clogs blood vessels or inflames brain tissue, and even head trauma. Dr. Amen adds that excess weight itself also dampens PFC function. So, if you’re carrying spare pounds, you’ll almost certainly benefit from one (or all) of these techniques to give your PFC some TLC…
Diets high in sugar and blood sugar–spiking processed foods “wreak havoc on the PFC and entire brain, increasing erratic brain-cell firing and brain inflammation,” Dr. Amen explains. His fix? Nutrient-rich foods including wild salmon, blueberries, pumpkin seeds, and cinnamon as they’re good at restoring PFC function. In general, he prescribes a mix of high-quality protein (which “fires up the PFC”), plus antioxidant-rich produce and healthy fats (to soothe inflammation).
Why not be the early bird when it comes to breakfast? Dr. Amen notes that a longer break without food gives the body and brain time to heal, so the PFC and entire body works better. And if your breakfasts consist of the nutrient-rich foods Dr. Amen suggests (such as oatmeal with pumpkin seeds and blueberries) you’ll be on the right track.
“Your brain is 80 percent water, and even mild dehydration impacts function,” notes Dr. Amen, who suggests drinking eight to 10 glasses of water daily. Limit caffeine intake, too, as it could lead to frequent bathroom trips. Alcohol also negatively affects various brain regions.
Dance, ski, even Hula-Hoop! Any form of movement pumps blood to your PFC. And as the brain region is optimized, hunger drops and the desire to get moving surges. “Physical activity is like a wonder drug for your brain,” Dr. Amen says. The fun keeps coming: You can specifically strengthen your PFC “with language and strategy games like Scrabble, Boggle, crosswords, and chess,” he adds.
“Spend 10 to 20 minutes a day in prayer or meditation,” Dr. Amen recommends. “Both improve blood flow to the PFC and boost mood.”
“Omega-3s are critical for brain and PFC function, and most people don’t get enough. At Amen Clinics, we tested 50 consecutive patients and found that 49 had suboptimal levels,” Dr. Amen says. His daily Rx: a 1,400 milligram omega-3 supplement that’s mostly EPA and DHA fatty acids.
Want to learn additional strategies tailored to your symptoms? Take Dr. Amen’s free quiz at BrainHealthAssessment.com.
To get the “gastric bypass for your brain” effect, eat your first meal around 11 a.m. and skip processed food in favor of quality protein at every sitting. Enjoy healthy fats and colorful, high-fiber carbs like veggies, fruit, beans, and sweet potato. Use lots of herbs and spices. For optimal results, limit or skip gluten, corn, soy, sugar, and dairy, because these may trigger inflammation. Below, we’ve got three ideas to inspire you. (Want even more? Dr. Amen’s wife, Tana Amen, BSN, RN, shares additional great recipes at TanaAmen.com.)
Blitz one cup frozen cherries, one cup spinach, ¼ cup stevia-sweetened protein powder, ¼ cup pumpkin seeds, and a dash of cinnamon.
Mix wild-caught canned salmon or tuna with avocado mayo. Roll in a gluten-free wrap with veggies to taste. Add a side of fruit.
Enjoy grilled chicken breast or burgers. For easy sides, roast sweet potato and veggies with olive oil and herbs.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
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