Obesity can cause changes in the brain similar to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study.
The disturbing link was uncovered in a study of more than 1,300 people
Scientists from the Montreal Neurological Institute (affiliated with McGill University) conducted the research, and the results have just been published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Analyzing brain scans of over 1,300 people, the researchers found similar patterns of “brain atrophy” in patients with Alzheimer’s and others classified as “obese.” Specifically, they found that both groups exhibited “widespread reduced cortical thickness” in areas of the brain that impact learning, memory and judgment.
Remarkably, these similarities were not observed in other patients classified as “lean”.
Researchers believe that “management of obesity” may help reduce the risk of “grey matter atrophy associated with obesity.”
As a result of the study, the researchers eventually discovered that “grey matter atrophy associated with obesity resembles that of atrophy [Alzheimer’s disease].”
In addition, they also found that “obesity management” could potentially lower the risk of the condition. This finding appears to build on previous research suggesting that obese people may develop Alzheimer’s at a younger age.
“Our research confirms that obesity-induced gray matter atrophy resembles that of AD. Obesity management could lead to improved health outcomes, slow cognitive decline with age, and reduce risk of Alzheimer’s.”
So while much is still unknown about Alzheimer’s disease, it appears that a healthier lifestyle and controlled weight can help reduce the risk of developing similar symptoms.
Indeed, the researchers state, “Our results underscore the importance of interventions aimed at reducing weight and metabolic risk factors in obese and overweight individuals in midlife to reduce the subsequent risk of neurodegeneration and dementia in the population.”
As Linda Van Horn – nutrition chief at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine – tells NBC News, losing weight may not be able to reverse damage already done. Finally, “there are certain points of no return.”
“Unfortunately, we are discovering more and more that there are certain points of no return. I believe, based on examples such as osteoporosis, that the chances of reversing the disease are lower than those of maintaining the current one.”
What do you think of these findings?