Now, researchers at the University of Cambridge have discovered that obesity is not just affecting the body, but the brain as well.
The research found that the brains of middle-aged people who are obese are showing signs of accelerated aging.
Specifically, the study of 473 adults discovered that people who are overweight have less white matter than their leaner counterparts.
In fact, the volume of white matter in the brains of overweight people at 50 were similar to that seen in the brains of lean people at 60. White matter connects different brain areas and enables signaling between them.
“As our brains age, they naturally shrink in size, but it isn’t clear why people who are overweight have a greater reduction in the amount of white matter,” said Lisa Ronan, a researcher at the University of Cambridge.
“We can only speculate on whether obesity might in some way cause these changes or whether obesity is a consequence of brain changes.”
Interestingly, there was no difference in how the groups fared in tests of knowledge and understanding.
Moreover, they discovered that there was no differences in cognitive abilities between lean, overweight, and obese individuals, according to an IQ test.
The researchers concluded that more work is needed to monitor people and see who develops conditions such as dementia.
It’s also important to find out whether the changes could be reversible with weight loss, the researchers said.
The fact that they only saw these differences from middle age onwards raises the possibility that humans are particularly vulnerable at this age, the researchers added.
The findings are published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.
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The rate of obesity around the world has more than doubled since 1980, according to the World Health Organisation.