The Brains of Obese People: Curiously Emaciated

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    Aug 26, 2009 1:27 AM GMT

    Aug. 25) - A new study finds obese people have 8 percent less brain tissue than normal-weight individuals. Their brains look 16 years older than the brains of lean individuals, researchers said today.

    Those classified as overweight have 4 percent less brain tissue and their brains appear to have aged prematurely by 8 years.

    The results, based on brain scans of 94 people in their 70s, represent "severe brain degeneration," said Paul Thompson, senior author of the study and a UCLA professor of neurology.

    "That's a big loss of tissue and it depletes your cognitive reserves, putting you at much greater risk of Alzheimer's and other diseases that attack the brain," said Thompson. "But you can greatly reduce your risk for Alzheimer's, if you can eat healthily and keep your weight under control."

    The findings are detailed in the online edition of the journal Human Brain Mapping.

    Obesity packs many negative health effects, including increased risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and some cancers. It's also been shown to reduce sexual activity.

    More than 300 million worldwide are now classified as obese, according to the World Health Organization. Another billion are overweight. The main cause, experts say: bad diet, including an increased reliance on highly processed foods.

    Obese people had lost brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes, areas of the brain critical for planning and memory, and in the anterior cingulate gyrus (attention and executive functions), hippocampus (long-term memory) and basal ganglia (movement), the researchers said in a statement today.
    Overweight people showed brain loss in the basal ganglia, the corona radiata, white matter comprised of axons, and the parietal lobe (sensory lobe).

    "The brains of obese people looked 16 years older than the brains of those who were lean, and in overweight people looked 8 years older," Thompson said.

    Obesity is measured by body mass index (BMI), defined as the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters. A BMI over 25 is defined as overweight, and a BMI of over 30 as obese.

    The research was funded by the National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Center for Research Resources, and the American Heart Association.
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    Aug 26, 2009 3:49 AM GMT
    I would attribute it more to a lethargic possibly anti/less social lifestyle associated with obesity than obesity itself leading to brain deterioration. Isn't the best way to avoid alzheimer's having a social life and not spending your days rotting away alone in your house or a nursing home? Interesting find though.
  • Celticmusl

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    Aug 26, 2009 4:12 AM GMT
    When I said I like 'em big and dumb this is not what I had in mind. I guess I need to be more specific for my third and final wish.
  • kietkat

    Posts: 342

    Aug 26, 2009 5:35 AM GMT
    Deadbeet saidI would attribute it more to a lethargic possibly anti/less social lifestyle associated with obesity than obesity itself leading to brain deterioration. Isn't the best way to avoid alzheimer's having a social life and not spending your days rotting away alone in your house or a nursing home? Interesting find though.


    I believe that theory is debatable. When Alzheimer's occurs, tangles of the neurons and plaque formation is observed. The cause is very much still under discussion. It may be a genetic abnormality like cancer.
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    Aug 26, 2009 5:37 AM GMT
    im curious... did this involve a study of obese people who had hypo-active thyroids. This has been proven to be highly correlated to mental retardation (:
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    Aug 26, 2009 6:10 AM GMT
    kietkat said
    Deadbeet saidI would attribute it more to a lethargic possibly anti/less social lifestyle associated with obesity than obesity itself leading to brain deterioration. Isn't the best way to avoid alzheimer's having a social life and not spending your days rotting away alone in your house or a nursing home? Interesting find though.


    I believe that theory is debatable. When Alzheimer's occurs, tangles of the neurons and plaque formation is observed. The cause is very much still under discussion. It may be a genetic abnormality like cancer.


    Did you know they have found smoking dope, marijuana, reduces the build up of plaque on the brain, thus reduces the chances of getting Alzheimer's
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    Aug 26, 2009 6:34 AM GMT
    Ori_ saidDid you know they have found smoking dope, marijuana, reduces the build up of plaque on the brain, thus reduces the chances of getting Alzheimer's


    And that's just for starters! Good stuff, that devil weed. ;)
  • jrs1

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    Aug 26, 2009 7:14 AM GMT

    I ... don't think that's necessarily valid because according to my BMI, I'm overweight and have been for a long time. does this also mean that my cranial overview would follow the " trend " to appear 16 years older than those who, according to their BMIs, are considered lean? I'm not quite ready to bite on this one. something doesn't quite feel right.
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    Aug 26, 2009 7:58 AM GMT
    jrs10k6 said
    I ... don't think that's necessarily valid because according to my BMI, I'm overweight and have been for a long time. does this also mean that my cranial overview would follow the " trend " to appear 16 years older than those who, according to their BMIs, are considered lean? I'm not quite ready to bite on this one. something doesn't quite feel right.


    For starters, the bmi was developed for white people. Its also not the most accurate instrument for the measurement of obesity or whatever its trying to assess. This is especially true for bodybuilders and the like (:
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    Aug 26, 2009 10:41 AM GMT
    People in their 70's aren't exactly representatives of younger people. Age gives them a host of other complications rather than simply obesity. Naturally obese people in their seventies will be a lot more sedentary. A combination of weight and arthritis for example could prevent them from getting up and still interact with other people leading to less stimuli on the brain, etc. etc.

    Not to mention... only 94 people. It's a statistics of small numbers.