A new study has found an alarming connection between obesity and brain health.
According to the study published by the University of Miami, having a bigger waistline and a high body mass index in your 60s can be linked with faster and greater brain aging. Unfortunately, gaining a few extra pounds in your 60s is easy, because metabolism slows down and people become less active.
The study involved 1,289 people with an average age of 64 and it examined the associations between measures of obesity in middle to early-old age and later-life MRI scans.
The researchers measured their BMI and measured their waistlines at the beginning of the study and followed up with MRI scans six years later to measure the thickness of the cortex area of the brain and the overall brain volume. The results demonstrated that the individuals with a higher BMI had a thinner cortex area of the brain.
The cortex is the thin, outermost layer of nerve cell tissue of the brain. Thinner cortex has been associated to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and with reduced grey matter of the brain. The research displayed that the higher the BMI was the thinner the cortex, even after researchers adjusted their findings for other factors that could affect the thinness of the cortex.
Tatjana Rundek M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurology, epidemiology, public health and scientific director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Research Institute at the Miller School of Medicine noted: “People with bigger waists and higher BMI were more likely to have thinning in the cortex area of the brain, which implies that obesity is associated with reduced grey matter of the brain.
“These associations were especially strong in those who were younger than 65, which adds weight to the theory that having poor health indicators in mid-life may increase the risk for brain ageing and problems with memory and thinking skills in later life.”
In normal aging adults, the overall thinning rate of the cortical mantle is between 0.01 and 0.10mm per decade, in overweight people, every unit increase in BMI was associated with a 0.098 mm thinner cortex. In obese people every unit increase in BMI was associated with a 0,207 mm thinner cortex.
Although the research does not prove that gaining extra weight in your 60s causes the cortex to get thinner, it does show a strong association between the two.
“These results are exciting because they raise the possibility that by losing weight, people may be able to stave off ageing of their brains and potentially the memory and thinking problems that can come along with brain aging,” Rundek said.
Read the full study here: Measures of obesity are associated with MRI markers of brain aging.
Newcastle Clinic’s open MRI scanner for obese patients has no enclosed tube and has much more space than a traditional MRI scanner. Newcastle Clinic accepts NHS referrals for obese patients and offers obese MRI scans for the brain, cervical or lumber spine, abdomen, hips, shoulders, legs and arms.