Obesity associated with increased brain-age from mid-life

Common mechanisms in aging and obesity are hypothesized to increase susceptibility to neurodegeneration, however direct evidence in support of this hypothesis is lacking. We therefore performed a cross-sectional analysis of MRI-based brain structure on a population-based cohort of healthy adults. Study participants were originally part of the Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience (Cam-CAN) and included 527 individuals aged 20 – 87 years. Cortical reconstruction techniques were used to generate measures of whole brain cerebral white matter volume, cortical thickness and surface area. Results indicated that cerebral white matter volume in overweight and obese individuals was associated with a greater degree of atrophy, with maximal effects in middle-age corresponding to an estimated increase of brain-age of 10 years. There were no similar BMI-related changes in cortical parameters. This study suggests that at a population level, obesity may increase the risk of neurodegeneration.

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