New research finds link to premature brain aging and being overweight or obese.
As if you didn’t need another reason for shedding those additional pounds you picked up over the holidays last season, a new report is saying that being obese can lead to premature aging of the brain, by as much as ten years.
According to an article on usnews.com, a new study focused on the white matter in the brain, the matter that helps different regions of the brain to communicate. For quite a while, it has been known that the white matter shrinks as we age, but the study found that the amount of the white matter in an overweight or obese person of 50 years of age, is comparable to a fit person at age 60.
Study author Lisa Ronan, who is a research assistant at the University of Cambridge’s psychiatry department offered, “Obesity is associated with a host of biological processes that are seen in normal aging. And therefore we hypothesized that obesity may in fact compound the effects of aging that we see in the brain. This is what we found.”
The study looked at almost 500 men and women, aged 20 to 87, who were all in good physical and mental heath. Approximately one-half of the subjects were had a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 25, considered lean, while another third were classed as overweight, with their BMIs falling between 25 and 30. The final 20 percent were classed as obese, having BMIs greater than 30.
Though the study found a middle-aged subject that was overweight or obese had a white matter volume that was comparable to a lean subject’s volume ten years younger, the differences were not noted in those participants in their 20s and 30s.
Ronan added the study did not prove that obesity was the cause of premature brain aging, and commented they found no differences in the cognitive abilities between the obese and the lean.
Citing the need for additional studies, Ronan continued, “However, it is possible that being overweight may raise the risk of developing disorders related to neurodegeneration such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.”
Findings from the study were recently published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.