Adults who are overweight or obese have lower levels of certain brain chemicals that indicate good brain health, according to a new study from the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
In this study, researchers used MRI scans to examine the brains of 50 overweight, obese or normal weight adults, measuring levels of N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA) and a metabolite of choline in the frontal cortex. Body mass index was correlated to the concentration of these markers of brain function to determine any differences. (Body mass index is a ratio of body weight to weight.)
Heavier people had lower levels of NAA and the choline metabolite in the frontal region of their brains. This region appears to be particularly vulnerable to age-related changes in brain chemistry.
N-acetyl-aspartate is found in low concentrations in the brains of people with neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's disease. Choline is a component of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory and cognitive function.
This is the first study to link body weight to specific markers of aging in the brain. Researchers say it's possible that being heavy accelerates brain aging - or that being overweight or obese earlier in life affects brain development.
In Canada, over 23 percent of adults are obese and estimated 97,000 will develop Alzheimer's or a related disease in 2008.
A healthy body weight is defined as having a BMI between 20 and 25. Overweight is classified as having a BMI between 25 and 29.9; Obese is defined as a BMI over 30. Click here to find out how nutrition consulting can lower your body weight.
This study was published online in the Annals of Neurology.
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