Posted on Aug 12, 2016, 6 a.m.
Researchers find that obese people's brains age more rapidly than those of leaner people, however, no connection was found in relation to cognitive abilities.
Scientists make a remarkable discovery that connects the brain with progressive aging and genetic illnesses. Middle-aged, obese individuals’ brains show something totally different from individuals who are not overweight, according to studies conducted at the University of Cambridge.
Brain Shrinkage Part of Normal Aging Process
Scientists agree that as we get older, our brains shrink. However, new studies show that obesity, which is already linked to cancer, diabetes and heart disease, may be a direct link to progressive brain aging.
A cross sectional study, conducted by Cambridge Centre of Aging and Neuroscience, took data from 473 individuals, aged 20 through 87, which compared the white matter tissue of these individuals over a period of time. The data allowed researchers to study the process the brain goes through, as people age. The information gathered was divided into two sections, based on weight: overweight and lean.
The study showcased the differences of the volume of white matter found in the brain of overweight participants, compared to the amount found in leaner participants. The differences suggest that overweight adult's brains age by at least 10 years. Scientists believe that this data could suggest the brain is most vulnerable during the middle-age period.
While the study confirms the natural shrinking of the brain with age, the study does not explain the reduction of white matter in obese adults. Researchers and scientists say they can only speculate, based on the information they have collected thus far. It cannot be said with certainty whether obesity contributes to changes in the brain, or if obesity is a consequence of these brain changes.
Additional Study Could Reveal More Information
According to Professor Paul Fletcher, Senior author associated with the Department of Psychiatry, “We are living in an aging population, with increasing levels of obesity, so it’s essential that we establish how these two factors might interact, since the consequences for health are potentially serious.”
The facts are clear, the brain of individuals middle-aged and beyond continually reaches a crucial point as one ages. The information researchers and scientists want to find out is whether or not weight loss will reverse the change. This might be a possibility, but for now it is a logical speculation, which may lead to further study.
In view of the differences clearly displayed in the volume of white matter in overweight adults, vs lean adults, these findings have no impact on a person’s cognitive abilities. There is no information to confirm that obesity and the reduction of white mass contributes to an increase in a person’s intellect, or personal IQ level.
Lisa Ronan, Aaron F. Alexander-Bloch, Konrad Wagstyl, Sadaf Farooqi, Carol Brayne, Lorraine K. Tyler, Paul C. Fletcher. Obesity associated with increased brain-age from mid-life. Neurobiology of Aging, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2016.07.010