In a new study, researchers found that being overweight is an additional burden on brain health and it may exacerbate Alzheimer’s disease.
They found obesity may contribute toward neural tissue vulnerability, whilst maintaining a healthy weight in mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia could help to preserve brain structure.
The findings also highlight the impact being overweight in mid-life could have on brain health in older age.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Sheffield and elsewhere.
More than 50 million people are thought to be living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Despite decades of groundbreaking studies and a huge global research effort, scientists still don’t have a cure for this cruel disease.
In the study, the team examined MRI brain scans from 47 patients clinically diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia, 68 patients with mild cognitive impairment, and 57 cognitively healthy individuals.
The novel study used three complementary, computational techniques to look at the anatomy of the brain, blood flow and also the fibers of the brain.
The team compared multiple brain images and measured differences in local concentrations of brain tissues to assess grey matter volume—which degenerates during the onset of Alzheimer’s—white matter integrity, cerebral blood flow and obesity.
In mild dementia patients, they found a positive association between obesity and grey matter volume around the right temporoparietal junction.
This suggests obesity might contribute toward brain vulnerability in cognitively healthy individuals and those with mild cognitive impairment.
The team also found that maintaining a healthy weight in mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia could help preserve brain structure in the presence of age and disease-related weight loss.
The team says weight-loss is commonly one of the first symptoms in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease as people forget to eat or begin to snack on easy-to-grab foods like biscuits or crisps, in place of more nutritional meals.
Maintaining a healthy weight could help preserve brain structure in people who are already experiencing mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia.
Unlike other diseases such as heart disease or diabetes, people don’t often think about the importance of nutrition in relation to neurological conditions, but these findings show it can help to preserve brain structure.
One author of the study is Professor Annalena Venneri.
The study is published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports.
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