Daily Health Headlines

Obesity May Age Your Brain

👤by Kathleen Doheny 0 comments 🕔Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

By Kathleen Doheny

Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD

Aug. 9, 2016 -- Being overweight or obese in middle age shrinks your brain, aging it by as much as 10 years, according to a new study.

People who are overweight or obese during middle age have brains with much less white matter than people of the same age at a healthy weight, says study researcher Lisa Ronan, PhD, at the University of Cambridge in the U.K.

White matter tissue helps the brain's different areas communicate with each other. Loss of it has been linked with declines in thinking skills.

However, in this study, the researchers did not see a difference in thinking skills between healthy weight and overweight people, despite the white matter differences seen on scans of the brain -- a finding that Ronan says surprised her.

Other studies have found a link between obesity and a decline in thinking skills, as well as getting Alzheimer's disease at an earlier age. Although Ronan didn't see the same link in her study, experts say losing white matter is not good.

''The white matter of the brain is thought to be the first to go with dementia," says Mike Henne, PhD, a spokesman for the American Federation for Aging Research. Loss of white matter is generally associated with "foggy-mindedness," he says.

White matter declines with age, usually beginning in the late 30s, so holding on to as much as you can is desirable.

"If you lose white matter, the [brain's] neurons are not as capable of communicating with each other," says Henne, assistant professor of cell biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

The Link Between Obesity, White Matter Decline

The U.K. researchers took brain scans of people about 40 years old to measure the impact of weight on brain structure and the amount of white matter. Of the 473 men and women evaluated, 246 were healthy weight, 150 overweight, and 77 obese. The men and women took a standard test similar to an IQ test to measure their thinking skills.

Researchers do not understand exactly how extra weight may affect the brain's white matter or what having less of it in middle age may mean, Ronan says.

Some experts believe that white matter cells may become more sensitive to inflammation in middle age. "One possibility, and the researchers talk about that [in the report], is that when you are obese your fat cells are producing more inflammatory agents and your white matter is more sensitive to it," Henne says. "That is a leading theory in the field."

Ronan says a limitation of the study is that she evaluated people at only one point in time.

While the new study did not link being overweight with an earlier onset of thinking problems and dementia, it brings much needed research attention to an area often neglected by researchers, Henne says.

The study's researchers said more researchers will need to study the brains of people over longer periods of time to help them better understand how weight impacts brain health. But the study supports the idea that too much weight "confers a significant risk" to thinking skills.

Article Credits / Source

Kathleen Doheny / WebMD

Kathleen Doheny wrote this story for WebMD. WebMD provides up to the minute breaking health news. Click here to view this full article from WebMD.

SOURCES: Lisa Ronan, PhD, researcher, University of Cambridge, U.K. Ronan, L. Neurobiology of Aging, July 27, 2016. Mike Henne, PhD, spokesman, American Federation for Aging Research; assistant professor of cell biology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.

View More Articles From Kathleen Doheny 🌎View Article Website

Sponsored Product

Lunar Sleep for $1.95

Lunar Sleep for $1.95

People who have trouble sleeping typically have low levels of melatonin, so melatonin supplements seem like a logical fix for insomnia. There is a high demand for sleep aids, especially in the U.S. The National Health Interview Survey done in 2002, and again in 2007, found 1.6 million US adults were using complementary and alternative sleep aids for insomnia. Lunar Sleep was a top choice. Use Promo Code: Sleep2014 and only pay $1.95 S&H.

Get Lunar Sleep for $1.95

More Neurology Articles

Moms' Rheumatoid Arthritis May Be Linked to Epilepsy Risk in Kids

Moms' Rheumatoid Arthritis May Be Linked to Epilepsy Risk in Kids0

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 16, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Some children born to mothers with rheumatoid arthritis may have higher-than-average odds of developing epilepsy, a new study suggests. Children born to mothers with rheumatoid arthritis were ...

Brain Implant Lets 'Locked-In' ALS Patient Communicate

Brain Implant Lets 'Locked-In' ALS Patient Communicate0

MONDAY, Nov. 14, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A high-tech implant has enabled a paralyzed woman with late-stage ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) to communicate through brain signaling, researchers say. The degenerative disease robbed Hanneke De ...

Blood Test May Someday Diagnose Concussion

Blood Test May Someday Diagnose Concussion0

FRIDAY, Nov. 11, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A simple blood test may one day diagnose concussions with more than 90 percent certainty, a small Canadian study suggests. This new test is unique, the authors said, because it looks for more than 100 ...

gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant, Fanatrex FusePag)

gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant, Fanatrex FusePag)0

home / neurology center / neurology a-z list / gabapentin index / gabapentin (neurontin, gralise, horizant, fanatrex fusepag) drug monograph Pharmacy Author: Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD Omudhome Ogbru, ...

MS Symptoms May Develop Earlier in Darker, Cooler Climes

MS Symptoms May Develop Earlier in Darker, Cooler Climes0

THURSDAY, Nov. 3, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- The farther from the Equator someone with multiple sclerosis lives, the earlier symptoms begin, a new study finds. MS is a progressive disease affecting the central nervous system. Although symptoms ...

View More Neurology Articles

0 Comments

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Mailing List

Subscribe to our mailing list to get the latest health news as it breaks!

Your information will not be shared with anyone!