Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Obesity Ages the Brain and Reduces Life Span

Overall, about two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are either overweight or obese and about 6 percent are extremely obese, putting them at an increased risk for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, osteoarthritis, stroke, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, respiratory problems and even certain cancers. Researchers have also discovered that obesity increases the risk for dementia, and a new study detailed in the online edition of the journal Human Brain Mapping may help to explain why.

When researchers at UCLA and the University of Pittsburgh scanned the brains of 94 people in the 70s, they found that the obese individuals had 8 percent less brain tissue than their normal-weight peers, and their brains looked 16 years older than the brains of lean people—evidence of “severe brain degeneration,” according to study author Paul Thompson, a UCLA professor of neurology. Those classified as overweight had 4 percent less brain tissue and their brains appeared to have aged prematurely by eight years.

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