Medicine

Link found between oversized waists and smaller brains - research

Link found between oversized waists and smaller brains - research

To find that out, researchers would have to follow the same people over time and record changes in body weight and brain volume.

The study was published in the journal Neurology.

Belly fat has always been thought to be particularly bad for your heart, but now, a new study adds more evidence to the idea that it may also be bad for your brain.

Lower brain volume, or brain shrinkage, has been linked with an increased risk of memory decline and dementia.

The findings showed that people with a high BMI alone had slightly lower brain volumes, but those with high BMI and high waist-to-hip ratios were shown to have even less. The researchers factored in age, physical activity, smoking and high blood pressure, all of which might lead to reduced volume.

"We also found links between obesity and shrinkage in specific regions of the brain".

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Overweight people had lower levels of grey matter - which contains most of the brain's nerve cells and includes brain regions involved in self-control, muscle control and sensory perception.

The study looked at more than 9,600 people across Britain, with an average age of 55. Obesity, low BMI linked to increased risk of death, study reveals The study also showed no real differences in white matter brain volume linked to obesity.

They found nearly 1,300 study participants were obese and apple-shaped, and that they had less grey matter, which is important for thinking skills.

Dr Rosa Sancho, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: 'While BMI can be a crude measure and not necessarily a good indication of our general health, this research suggests that taking a person's waist-to-hip ratio into account may provide additional information that could be relevant to the health of the brain. Specifically, researchers found that 1,291 people who had a high BMI and a high waist-to-hip ratio had the lowest average gray matter brain volume of 786 cubic centimeters, compared to 3,025 people of healthy weight who had an average gray matter brain volume of 798 cubic centimeters and 514 people with a high BMI but without high waist-to-hip ratio who had an average gray matter brain volume of 793 cubic centimeters.

While the results point to a possible association between obesity and brain volume, they do not establish that body fat necessarily causes changes in the brain.

Future research should explore inflammation, nutrition and vascular health to better understand potential links between brain health and obesity, she said.