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Brains of overweight people look 10 years older than those of lean people – Study

Comparison of grey matter (brown) and white matter (yellow) in a (56-year-old and a 50-year-old. /BBC

The brains of people who are obese or overweight appear to have aged an extra 10 years compared to their lean peers from middle age on wards, brain scanning research has revealed.

The difference, scientists say, corresponds to a greater shrinkage in the volume of white matter. It might be down to genes causing both brain-shrinking and obesity, or it could be that changes occurring in the brain lead to overeating.

White matter is tissue, composed of nerve fibres, that aids communication between different regions of the brain. The volume of white matter in a human brain increases during youth and then decreases with age for both lean people and those who are overweight or obese.

But researchers have discovered that this shrinkage differs depending on a subject’s body’s mass index.
“The overall message is that brains basically appear to be 10 years older if you are overweight or obese,” said Lisa Ronan, first author of the study from the University of Cambridge.

Despite a higher BMI being linked to a smaller volume of white matter, it did not appear to have any link to mental prowess, with no difference seen between lean and overweight or obese participants when they were subjected to IQ tests. “While cognition does change in the general population as you age, that is just perfectly normal; there were no differences in these changes between lean and overweight or obese [people],” Ronan told BBC.

On February 21,research suggested that lesbian women are at greater risk of being overweight than heterosexual women.

A study of more than 90,000 British adults also that found gay men are less likely to be overweight than straight men.

The study, published in the Journal of Public Health, is the first to investigate the relationship between sexual orientation and body mass in the UK.

The researchers, from the University of East Anglia, said sexual identity should be considered as a social determinant of health.

They found women identifying as lesbian were 41 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese than straight women, and bisexual women had a 24 per cent increased risk.

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