It’s tempting to let go once you’ve hit the big six-zero, but carrying extra weight in your sixties is linked to signs of greater brain ageing

Research has found that a bigger waistline and a high body mass index (BMI) in your 60s may be linked to signs of greater brain ageing years later.

The study, published by a leading University of Miami neurologist researcher, found that these factors may accelerate brain ageing by at least a decade.

“People with bigger waists and higher BMI were more likely to have thinning in the cortex area of the brain, which implies that obesity is associated with reduced grey matter of the brain,” says study author Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., a UHealth neurologist, professor of neurology, epidemiology and public health, and scientific director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Research Institute.

“These associations were especially strong in those who were younger than 65, which adds weight to the theory that having poor health indicators in mid-life may increase the risk for brain ageing and problems with memory and thinking skills in later life,” said Dr Rundek.

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Over 1 200 people studied

The study involved 1 289 people with an average age of 64.

Participants’ BMI and waist circumference were measured at the beginning of the study. An average of six years later, participants had MRI brain scans to measure the thickness of the cortex area of the brain, overall brain volume and other factors.

Having a higher BMI was associated with having a thinner cortex, even after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect the cortex, such as high blood pressure, alcohol use and smoking.

In overweight people, every unit increase in BMI was associated with a 0.098 millimetre (mm) thinner cortex and in obese people with a 0.207 mm thinner cortex. Having a thinner cortex has been tied to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Having a bigger waist was also associated with a thinner cortex after adjusting for other factors.

Rundek said, “In normal ageing adults, the overall thinning rate of the cortical mantle is between 0.01 and 0.10 mm per decade, and our results would indicate that being overweight or obese may accelerate ageing in the brain by at least a decade.”

Losing weight helps the brain

“These results are exciting because they raise the possibility that by losing weight, people may be able to stave off ageing of their brains and potentially the memory and thinking problems that can come along with brain ageing,” Rundek said.

“However, with the rising number of people globally who are overweight or obese and the difficulty many experience with losing weight, obviously this is a concern for public health in the future as these people age.”

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Source: University of Miami Miller School of Medicine via www.sciencedaily.com

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