Brains of Overweight People ‘Ten Years Older’ than Lean Counterparts at Middle-age

From middle-age, the brains of obese individuals display differences in white matter similar to those in lean individuals ten years their senior, according to new research led by the University of Cambridge. White matter is the tissue that connects areas of the brain and allows for information to be communicated between regions.

Our brains naturally shrink with age, but scientists are increasingly recognising that obesity – already linked to conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease – may also affect the onset and progression of brain ageing; however, direct studies to support this link are lacking.

In a cross-sectional study – in other words, a study that looks at data from individuals at one point in time – researchers looked at the impact of obesity on brain structure across the adult lifespan to investigate whether obesity was associated with brain changes characteristic of ageing. The team studied data from 473 individuals between the ages of 20 and 87, recruited by the Cambridge Centre for Aging and Neuroscience. The results are published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

The researchers divided the data into two categories based on weight: lean and overweight. They found striking differences in the volume of white matter in the brains of overweight individuals compared with those of their leaner counterparts. Overweight individuals had a widespread reduction in white matter compared to lean people.

In summary, this study suggests that at a population level "obesity may increase the risk of neurodegeneration", as you can read in the abstract of scientific paper.

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► The study Obesity associated with increased brain-age from mid-life, published in the journal _Neurobiology of Aging>>

Image explanation: Comparison of grey matter (brown) and white matter (yellow) in sex-matched subjects A (56 years, BMI 19.5) and B (50 years, BMI 43.4). Credit: Lisa Ronan

#neuroscience, #research , #brain , #neurobiology , #obesity , #brain_age
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