Scientists find surprising link between high BMI and brain health decline

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A groundbreaking study from Beijing Friendship Hospital, Capital Medical University, led by Associate Professor Han Lv, has highlighted a concerning connection between high body mass index (BMI) and deteriorating brain health.

Published in Health Data Science, the research presents compelling evidence that a higher cumulative BMI can significantly impact brain structure and function negatively.

The study meticulously analyzed data from a 16-year population-based cohort, including adults ranging from 25 to 83 years old.

It found that individuals with higher BMI scores tend to have smaller overall brain volumes and increased volumes of white matter hyperintensity (WMH), which are areas in the brain typically associated with various neurological diseases.

These effects were particularly pronounced in two age groups: adults younger than 45 and those older than 60.

Associate Professor Han Lv explained the gravity of these findings, stating, “High cumulative BMI is detrimental to brain health, particularly for younger adults under 45 years, where it corresponds to approximately 12 years of brain aging.”

He recommended maintaining a BMI below 26.2 kg/m^2 to foster better brain health.

The study employed a generalized linear model to examine the links between cumulative BMI and a range of neuroimaging features. These included assessments of the brain’s macrostructure, white matter integrity, and microstructure.

Additionally, to establish a causal relationship between high BMI and changes in brain health, researchers conducted a Mendelian randomization analysis using genetic data.

Their findings underscored a causal link between high BMI and reduced gray matter volume, along with increased fractional anisotropy in certain brain regions.

Fractional anisotropy is a measure used in MRI scanning to assess the structural integrity of white matter. It is often used as an indicator of damage or changes in the brain’s white matter pathways.

These insights are crucial for understanding how lifestyle factors like weight management can influence brain health over time.

Associate Professor Han Lv emphasized the importance of these results for public health, suggesting that controlling BMI could be a key strategy for improving neurological outcomes across the population.

Looking ahead, Associate Professor Han Lv and his team advocate for more comprehensive studies, particularly those that could collect and analyze longitudinal neuroimaging data.

Such studies would help further elucidate the impact of BMI on brain health and potentially guide the development of targeted interventions to mitigate these effects.

This research not only provides valuable information about the physiological impacts of obesity but also stresses the need for societal and individual measures to manage body weight for maintaining cognitive health into older age.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about low choline intake linked to higher dementia risk, and how eating nuts can affect your cognitive ability.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that blueberry supplements may prevent cognitive decline, and results showing higher magnesium intake could help benefit brain health.

The research findings can be found in Health Data Science.

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