An article in the Spring 2009 issue of Connections (Is a Big Belly Bad for the Brain? Examining Body Fat's Ties to Dementia) described research into links between obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and other dementias. The article mentions studies that have found “both generalized and regional brain atrophy and changes in white matter in association with obesity." A recent 5-year study, partly funded by the NIA, amplifies earlier work, by showing that overweight or obese participants tended to have lower brain volumes in specific areas. To obtain these results, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California, Los Angeles, applied sophisticated methods of computer analysis to high-resolution brain scans.
This is the first time anyone has created brain maps showing a possible link between being overweight and brain degeneration in particular brain regions, according to senior investigator Dr. Paul M. Thompson. “The brains of obese people looked 16 years older than the brains of those who were lean, and the brains of overweight people looked 8 years older,” he said.
Raji, C., et al. Brain structure and obesity. Human Brain Mapping (online ahead of print). August 6, 2009.