Obesity Linked To Prematurely Aged Brains

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Lisa Ronan, PhD Department of Psychiatry University of Cambridge Neuroscience

Dr. Lisa Ronan

Dr. Lisa Ronan, PhD
Department of Psychiatry
University of Cambridge Neuroscience

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: A growing body of literature relates common markers of aging to those observed in obesity and supports the hypothesis that obesity may accelerate or advance the onset of brain aging. To investigate this relationship at a population level we analysed the white matter volume of the brain in 473 adult subjects ages 20 – 87 years and contrasted these volumes between subjects who were lean (BMI between 18.5 – 25) and those who were overweight / obese (BMI > 25).

Our results suggest that the latter group had significantly smaller white matter volumes when compared to their lean age-matched counterparts. We found that this difference in volume equated to a brain-age increase of 10 years in the overweight / obese group. We found no evidence that obesity impacted on cognitive ability.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: These findings are consistent with they hypothesis that obesity may increase the rate of brain aging although more explicit longitudinal analysis is required to confirm this. While our study only included subjects who were cognitively healthy, our results raise the possibility that obesity may increase the risk for developing age-related disorders linked to neurodegeneration.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Further work is needed to replicate these findings in an independent dataset and to elucidate the mechanisms that underpin these results. For example it is not clear whether an increased BMI or factors associated with being overweight or obese drive the changes we see in the brain, or whether the brain itself causes an increase in body mass.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: In the global climate of an increasingly aged population, with rising levels of obesity, it is critical to establish the full health impact of an increased body mass.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


Obesity associated with increased brain-age from mid-life, Lisa Ronan et al., Neurobiology of Aging, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2016.07.010, published online 27 July 2016.

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Last Updated on August 6, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD