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Brains in overweight people ’10 years older’ than in leaner people

Research published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging has indicated that being obese or overweight in middle age can make people’s brains “10 years older” than those in leaner people.

Obesity China

White matter deterioration

Researchers divided 473 adult test subjects (aged between 20 and 87) into lean and overweight categories, and performed brain scans on all of the subjects. The resulting scans indicated a strong correlation between a subject’s extra weight and the rate of white matter loss in his or her brain.

Although white matter, a type of brain tissue that transmits information between different areas, naturally decreases in volume as people get older, researchers calculated that an overweight 50-year-old person had white matter volume comparable to that of a lean 60-year-old person.

Links between obesity and adverse health conditions such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease have been well-established. Science can now add to this list an increasingly recognized link between obesity and the accelerated or advanced onset of age-related neurodegeneration.

Middle age condition

One key finding of the study is that the difference in white matter volume deterioration was most pronounced in those test subjects who were middle aged and beyond. This finding suggests that human brains might be particularly vulnerable to white matter volume deterioration during this period of aging. This finding also highlights the danger of increasing rates of obesity in elderly populations.

China overweight and obesity statistics

According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, China still trails most developed countries in terms of its proportion of overweight and obese individuals. However, China has experienced rapidly rising rates of obesity in recent years, with a study last month showing rapid rises in obesity even in rural China. Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.

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