Excessive body fat around the middle linked to smaller brain size

Ben Davidson
January 12, 2019

Dr Mark Hamer, Professor of Exercise as Medicine, at Loughbourough, said it was unclear if the differences in brain structure were caused by obesity itself or were driving it.

The study, from the United Kingdom, found that people who were obese and had a high waist-to-hip ratio (a measure of belly fat) had slightly lower brain volumes, on average, compared with people who were a healthy weight.

Researchers led by Loughborough University looked at more than 9,600 people aged 40 to 69, measuring their waist and hips as well as their body mass index (BMI).

However, the study found only an association between belly fat and lower brain volume, and can not prove that carrying more fat around the waist actually causes brain shrinkage. "One particularly interesting finding is that, among individuals with obesity, those with greater waist to hip ratio (a marker of visceral fat around the abdomen), showed even lower gray matter volume", Bohon said.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was then used to determine the brain volumes of participants in different parts of the brain.

Obese people carrying weight around their middle had the lowest average amount of grey matter, at an average of 786 cubic centimetres, compared to people of a healthy weight who had an average of 798 centimetres.

The volume for those with a high BMI but relatively little fat around their waists was 793cu cm.

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Looking at both BMI as well as waist-to-hip ratio clarifies what role different types of body fat may play in affecting the brain, Hamer says.

Findings of a new study that involved almost 10,000 people now provide evidence that having excessive fat around the middle may also be bad for the brain.

Gray matter contains most of your brain's 100 billion nerve cells, while white matter is filled with nerve fibers that connect the brain regions. All of these brain regions are involved in motivation and reward. "Brain gray matter shrinkage...seems to be associated with obesity and with increased visceral fat", she said.

Charities said the findings supported evidence that maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet could lower the risk of developing dementia.

British researchers discovered less grey matter in these people, suggesting their brain had shrunk.

"Our research looked at a large group of people and found obesity, specifically around the middle, may be linked with brain shrinkage". "People should strive to maintain normal body weight".

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