The study found brain shrinkage only occurred in middle-aged people indicating this is a particularly vulnerable time for our brain.
Being overweight has been widely known to damage your body with links to cancer, heart disease, strokes and diabetes. Now new research says it also causes your brain to age rapidly – it literally damages your brain.
A study was carried out by a team of scientists from the Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience at Cambridge University, England who studied 473 people aged between 20 and 87, dividing them into two weight groups – those that were overweight and those that had a lean body mass.
The white matter in the brain (the part of the brain that transmits information) is known to decrease as we age and in this study, the researchers compared the participants white matter from both groups, according to a report in Tech Times.
They found that those people who were overweight had a much less white matter volume than those of the same age in the lean group – in other words, an overweight person had a brain 10 years older than that of their lean counterpart.
Interestingly, they only found this to be affected in people who were middle-aged and above, indicating that the brain is particularly vulnerable around this age and more likely to decline easily.
First author, Dr Lisa Ronan from the Department of Psychology at Cambridge says it’s still a mystery how being overweight exactly affects the brain’s mass.
“As our brains age, they naturally shrink in size, but it isn’t clear why people who are overweight have a greater reduction in the amount of white matter. We can only speculate on whether obesity might in some way cause these changes or whether obesity is a consequence of brain changes.”
It is also unclear whether losing weight will be able to reverse the damage caused and according to senior author Prof. Paul Fletcher, this could help the increasing ageing and obese population.
“We’re living in an ageing population, with increasing levels of obesity, so it’s essential that we establish how these two factors might interact, since the consequences for health are potentially serious.”
“The fact that we only saw these differences from middle-age onwards raises the possibility that we may be particularly vulnerable at this age. It will also be important to find out whether these changes could be reversible with weight loss, which may well be the case.”
The study was published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.