Obesity Linked to Brain Decay, Study Shows

Obesity may cause a reduction in gray matter in the brain, according to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh. However, researchers found no evidence of diminished mental capacity.

obesity may cause brain decayObesity is a downer. It messes with your health, ruins your fashion sense and requires you to buy a second airline ticket just for your butt. To top it all off, it apparently makes your brain decay, too.

A new study of postmenopausal women out of the University of Pittsburgh suggests that obesity might relate to a reduced volume of gray matter in the brain.

The human brain and nervous system are composed of two types of tissue: gray matter, which consists of the actual nerve cells — sort of like the body’s computer chips — and white matter, which are the “wires” and surrounding fatty “insulation” that carry electrical impulses between them.

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The study focused on 48 women, some of whom were overweight. Others were within their recommended BMI, but all were well and healthy. Each woman underwent an MRI to determine the volume of both the white and gray matter in their brains, and the results were startling: the researchers found that those who had gained the most weight had a lower gray matter volume.

The idea that weight gain by itself may impact the brain came as a surprise. While it’s no secret that weightier people tend to have higher blood pressure, are less glucose-tolerant, and have other conditions known to affect the brain, the scientists involved in the study had no idea that excess weight would be so closely correlated with gray matter loss in otherwise healthy women.

Fortunately, intelligence is not measured by the ounce. The study found no relationship between decreased gray matter and diminished mental capacity, ability to function, or other negative effects.

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