Jan. 31, 2023 -- The brains of obese people go through changes like those of Alzheimer’s patients, a new study shows.

Being overweight in midlife has been linked to a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, NBC News said in a report on the study. This is the first study that directly compared patterns of brain shrinkage in the two groups.

Scientists examined brain scans of more than 1,300 people and found both groups had similar brain thinning in areas associated with learning, memory, and judgment, says the study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Obesity can cause changes in the body that are associated with raising the risk of Alzheimer’s, including damage to the brain’s blood vessels and the accumulation of abnormal proteins, earlier studies have found,” NBC reported. “The new research takes it a step further.”

The study’s first author, Filip Morys, a postdoctoral neuroscience researcher at McGill University, explained: “We showed that there is a similarity between the brains of people who are obese and those with Alzheimer’s. And it boils down to the thickness of the cerebral cortex.”

A thinning cerebral cortex could mean fewer brain cells, Morys said.

Obese people might be able to slow cognitive decline by reducing their weight, the researchers said.

NBC said the brain scans can’t show that obesity causes thinning of the brain areas involved. But metabolism researcher Sabrina Diano, PhD, of the Columbia Irving Medical Center, said controlling weight could reduce the risks.

Show Sources

NBC News: “Obesity can cause changes in the brain similar to Alzheimer's, study suggests”

Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease: “Obesity-Associated Neurodegeneration Pattern Mimics Alzheimer's Disease in an Observational Cohort Study”

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