Lose belly fat: body weight and fat distribution are decided in the brain

Lose belly fat: body weight and fat distribution are decided in the brain

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Insulin sensitivity of the brain determines where fat is deposited in the body

Numerous scientific studies have shown that being fat is unhealthy. If you are overweight, the fat distribution is very important. According to experts, the abdominal circumference is crucial for the health risk. A long-term study has now shown how body weight and fat distribution are determined.

Being overweight can promote illness. The belly fat is particularly dangerous. It favors the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and metabolic disorders such as diabetes. Researchers are now reporting how body weight and fat distribution are determined.

When the brain is sensitive to insulin

Where fat accumulates in the body and how much one benefits from a lifestyle intervention depends, among other things, on the insulin sensitivity of the brain, the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) explains in a recent release.

If the brain is sensitive to the hormone, you lose a lot of weight, reduce unhealthy belly fat and can keep the weight long-term. However, if the brain reacts little or not at all to insulin, you only lose some weight at the beginning of the measure and then gain weight again. The visceral fat also continues to rise in the long term.

These are the results of a long-term study by the DZD, which has now been published in the specialist journal "Nature Communications".

Belly fat is particularly bad

How unhealthy body fat is depends on where it is stored. If fat accumulates in the stomach, this is particularly unfavorable.

Because the visceral fat releases numerous messenger substances, which among other things have a negative effect on blood pressure, influence the release of the hormone insulin and can trigger inflammation. This increases the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer.

The subcutaneous fat (subcutaneous fat) that accumulates on the buttocks, thighs and hips, on the other hand, has no known negative effects on health.

So far, however, it is unclear why fat is not stored in the same place in all people. According to the DZD, studies in the Tübingen lifestyle intervention program indicated that the insulin effect in the brain could play an important role here.

They showed that people with high insulin sensitivity in the brain benefit significantly more from lifestyle intervention with a high-fiber diet and exercise than people with insulin resistance in the brain.

If the brain is sensitive to the hormone, people not only lose more body weight, but also have a healthier fat distribution.

Some people benefit from lifestyle intervention

But how does insulin sensitivity affect the distribution of body fat and weight in the long term? Researchers from the DZD, the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the University Hospital Tübingen examined this question in a long-term study.

To this end, the researchers recorded the follow-up data of 15 participants over a period of nine years, in which the insulin sensitivity in the brain was determined by magnetoencephalography before the start of a 24-month lifestyle intervention.

According to the information, it was found that insulin activity in the brain not only determines body weight, but also the distribution of fat in the body.

“Subjects with a high insulin sensitivity in the brain benefited from the lifestyle intervention with a marked reduction in weight and visceral fat. Even after the lifestyle intervention had ended, they only added a small amount of fat during the nine-year follow-up ”, said the head of the study, Prof. Dr. Martin Heni from the University Hospital Tübingen.

In contrast, people with brain insulin resistance only showed a slight weight loss in the first nine months of the program. "After that, the body weight and visceral fat increased again during the following months of lifestyle intervention," explains first author PD Dr. Stephanie Kullmann.

No influence on the mass of the subcutaneous fatty tissue

Because the insulin effect in the hypothalamus is crucial for the regulation of peripheral energy metabolism, the researchers also examined how insulin sensitivity in this area of ​​the brain is related to the distribution of body fat.

To this end, the experts examined a cross-sectional cohort of 112 participants. The analysis of the data showed that people with high insulin sensitivity in the hypothalamus form little visceral fat. Insulin sensitivity has no effect on the mass of subcutaneous fat.

“Our study shows a new and central mechanism that controls fat distribution in humans. The insulin sensitivity in the brain determines where fat accumulates, ”explains Heni.

Since visceral fat not only plays a role in the development of type 2 diabetes, but also increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, the study results may also open up new approaches for treatment options beyond metabolic diseases.

The scientists in Tübingen are already working on new therapies to abolish insulin resistance in the brain and thus have a beneficial effect on body fat distribution. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD): Insulin activity in the brain determines body weight and fat distribution, (accessed: April 27, 2020), German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD)
  • Kullmann et al .: Brain insulin sensitivity is linked to adiposity and body fat distribution; in: Nature Communications, (published: April 15, 2020), Nature Communications

Video: SIMPLE ways to GET RID of BELLY FAT. TRAINING TIP TUESDAY #3 (July 2022).


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