In a new study, researchers have discovered how obesity and insulin resistance may harm cognitive functions.
They found that obesity can break down the protective blood-brain barrier in the body and result in problems with learning and memory.
The new finding provides important information about how obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cognitive impairment are connected.
The research was conducted by the Medical College of Georgia scientists.
Previous research has shown that obesity and insulin resistance can break down the blood-brain barrier in humans and animals.
However, it has been unknown how this happens.
In the current study, the team found that mice with obesity and diabetes have higher rates of cognitive impairment as they age.
Most of the brain changes are in the hippocampus, a center of learning and memory.
They also found that fat is a source of inflammation. Reducing chronic inflammation in the brain helps prevent obesity-related memory loss.
The team suggests that this type of work actually started with human findings, which showed that avoiding insulin resistance could potentially halt the increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier and decrease in cognitive function.
For people who already progressed to insulin resistance, the findings underscore the importance of controlling blood sugar levels and avoiding progressing to diabetes.
Diabetes can open the blood-brain barrier even further.
The scientists also suggest that the relative accessibility of blood vessels in the brain may also make them a good avenue for preventing obesity’s effects on the brain.
Currently, a variety of drugs given to obese patients may influence their brain activity, which might be something for patients and their doctors to consider, according to the team.
Some commonly prescribed drugs such as prednisone may potentially be bad for the brain.
The lead author of the study is Dr. Alexis M. Stranahan, a neuroscientist in the MCG Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at Augusta University.
The study is published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
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