A recent study by a medical research team in Cambridge revealed a shocking relationship between obesity and aging in the brain. The team, which is part of the psychiatry department at Cambridge, found that obesity in middle-aged individuals might hasten their brain’s ageing process. It might do so by reducing the volume of white matter in a person’s brain.
White matter is responsible for communication between different regions of the brain. This type of communication is important because it allows the brain to interpret signals it is receiving from different parts of the body. That means a reduction in white matter is likely to interfere with a person’s ability to learn and function.
Details of the study
Paul Fletcher, a psychiatrist and professor at Cambridge, led the medical research team as they carried out this study. The Neurobiology of Aging journal published it in July 2016.
The researchers examined 473 individuals aged from 20 to 87 years old. They opted for cortical reconstruction methods to measure the white matter volume in these participants. Establishing the respective body mass indexes of the individuals was also a top priority for the team. These indexes were important because they determined if a participant was lean, overweight, or obese. Finally, the researchers took note of the participants’ age.
The study found that those who were overweight or obese had the lowest volume of white matter in their brain. It also found that middle-aged individuals who were obese or overweight had as much white matter as an average sized person who was 10 years older than they were. This particular finding was quite alarming because middle-aged individuals should have more white matter in their brains than those who are 10 years older than they are.
What does the study mean for you?
This study is a scientific breakthrough when it comes to understanding the impact of obesity on your life. Currently, scientists know that being overweight increases your likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Now, they know it may lead to premature aging in the human brain as well.
The findings should encourage you to exercise and eat healthy foods so that you can avoid these consequences of being overweight. You can also advice your family members, friends, and colleagues so that they understand the dangers of obesity.
It is important to note that other studies have shown that alcoholism leads to a reduction in volume of white matter in the brain. That means you should fight obesity as much as you can in addition to avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol.