Obesity in older age has been linked to brain shrinkage in a new study conducted in the USA.

Strong connections have already been made between obesity and cadrdiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke.

But the ‘Brain Structure and Obesity’ study published in Human Brain Mapping is the first to demonstrate an association between being overweight and experiencing brain atrophy.

The study mapped the brains of 94 elderly subjects who remained “cognitively normal” for five years after the scans.

Researchers used images of the participants’ brains to produce three-dimensional maps.

They found that the overweight patients had an average frontal lobe tissue loss of four per cent. Participants who were clinically obese had an eight per cent tissue loss.

Overweight and obese participants also had higher levels of shrinkage in the hippocampus and the thalamus compared to the participants with a normal body mass index (BMI).

“Higher BMI was associated with lower brain volumes in overweight and obese elderly subjects,” said the report’s abstract.

“Obesity is therefore associated with detectable brain volume deficits in cognitively normal elderly subjects.”

The study did not consider the impact of obesity on the likelihood of developing dementia.
It concluded that the brains of obese elderly people are equivalent to those of lean people who are 16 years older.

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