Tipping the scales: A fat waist shrinks the brain
This may put people with a high waist-to-hip ratio at a higher risk of developing dementia
People who carry too much weight around their middle have smaller brains, scientists have found.
Researchers from Loughborough University and UCL discovered that people with a high body-mass index (BMI) and high waist-to-hip ratio had brains that were 12cm³ smaller than people of a healthy weight.
Dr Mark Hamer, professor of exercise as medicine at Loughborough University in England, said it was unclear if the differences in brain structure were caused by obesity, or if they were driving it.
But he said it might explain why people who were overweight were more likely to develop dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.
“Our research looked at a large group of people and found obesity, specifically around the middle, may be linked with brain shrinkage,” he said
The study measured the BMI and waist-to-hip ratio of 9,652 people, then used MRI to determine brain volumes for white and grey brain matter.
Grey matter contains most of the brain’s nerve cells, and includes brain regions involved in self-control and sensory perception.
Those who had a high BMI and held the fat around their stomach had the lowest average grey matter brain volume of 786cm³, compared with people of healthy weight who had an average grey matter brain volume of 798cm³.
One hypothesis is that fatty tissue around the middle triggers inflammation in the body, which disrupts the circulatory system, perhaps making it more difficult to clear deposits in the brain that can damage cells.
Charities said the findings supported evidence that maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet could lower the risk of developing dementia.
The research was published in the journal Neurology.
– © The Daily Telegraph