Overweight people have smaller brains, study suggests

11 Janvier, 2019, 00:06 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
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About 1,000 participants with high BMI and waist-to-hip ratios had the lowest average of grey matter in the brain, which controls self-control, muscle control and sensory perception, compared to about 3,000 participants of healthy weights who had an average amount of grey matter.

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.

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. The latest study finds an intriguing link between body fat, especially around the middle, and the brain.

Grey matter in the brain consists mostly of nerve cells while "white matter" is made up of connecting nerve fibres. Future studies are needed to tease out the reasons for the link. Previous studies have linked visceral fat with a higher risk of heart disease (including heart attack and stroke), Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and premature death, according to the Mayo Clinic. In the study, scientists compared body mass index (BMI) measurements as well as waist-to-hip ratio recordings taken between 2006 and 2010.

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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. They looked at nearly 1,000 people, with an average age of 55, accounting for all kinds of other factors that could potentially sway the results, such as age and how physically active they were. This effect remained strong even after researchers accounted for other factors that might affect brain volume, including age, smoking history, education, physical activity and history of mental illness.

About 500 participants with a high BMI but not a high waist-to-hip ratio also had an average amount of grey matter.

Dr. Gayatri Devi, a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in NY, who was not involved with the study, agreed with the findings.

Only five per cent of those invited to participate in the study took part, and that group tended to skew healthier.

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