An imaging study compared the volume of the white matter in middle-aged individuals and discovered that obesity caused brain aging, as the quantity of white matter was larger in lean persons than in overweight people.
However, the reduction in the white matter volume is not associated with a disturbance in the cognitive function.
The scientists are not completely aware of all the implications of the study. The fact that the brain functioning is not affected by the loss of white matter is considered to be good news, even if no one knows why this happens.
The Brain Aging Study
The researchers measured the relation between the body mass index and brain structure in 473 persons with ages between 20 and 87 years.
The participants had no brain diseases. 246 individuals were fit, 150 were overweight, and 77 of them were obese.
The MRI scans showed that the overweight and obese persons had a lower white matter volume and a greater degree of brain atrophy. The maximal effects were found in middle age when obesity caused a premature 10-year brain aging.
Obesity and overweight are associated with a higher level of cholesterol, and scientists started to wonder if the metabolic comorbidities that are linked to obesity can cause neurodegeneration.
Moreover, education, income, and exercise did not seem to diminish the influence of the body mass index on brain structure.
The authors warn that the connection between neurodegeneration and obesity was not the object of the study, and all the subjects involved in the research were cognitively healthy at the moment of the monitoring.
The study was exploratory, and the scientists wanted to know the effects of obesity on the general human health and in particular on the brain. There are still mechanisms which need to be discovered in order to understand how obesity leads to a decrease in the brain matter.
Health experts believe that the results of the research are crucial as they show that obesity is associated with changes in the white matter from the brain.
Similar effects had been observed in middle age, which made the scientists believe that being overweight can lead to a premature brain aging.
While the study uses the body mass index and not an adequate index of adiposity, the researchers believe that the study has still relevant data to offer. Health experts believe that the results are a warning that successful aging should be prepared before the age of 65, and the changes should be made earlier in life, beginning with young adulthood.
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