Research has shown a higher body mass index, as well as mid-life obesity, are both linked to an increased risk of dementia. Some research also indicated obesity and Alzheimer’s may cause similar brain dysfunction.
New research shows that being overweight negatively affects brain health, even more so in the areas of the brain most vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease and its effects.
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The study looked at 57 people with no sign of Alzheimer’s, 68 people with mild cognitive impairments, and 47 people with diagnosed Alzheimer’s. Researchers gathered BMI and waist measurements to determine who was overweight. All participants then underwent an MRI to measure brain function and structure.
Our findings show how complex the relationship between maintaining a healthy weight and brain health is. While our study doesn’t show obesity or excess weight to be a direct cause of Alzheimer’s disease, the findings do suggest that being overweight or obese throughout a person’s lifetime lowers the brain’s resilience to the damaging effects of the disease. This results in more severe symptoms and faster decline in those who develop Alzheimer’s.
The research showed that of those with no or mild cognitive impairment, the more overweight they were, the lower the brain blood flow and the greater their levels of brain cell loss. Additionally, those who had Alzheimer’s but were with in a healthy weight showed less brain cell loss, indicating that a healthy weight may help preserve memory loss after diagnoses.