Obesity is linked with the brain aging faster than would normally be expected. Researchers can capture this process by calculating a person’s ‘brain age’ – how old their brain appears on detailed scans, regardless of chronological age. This approach also helps to check how certain factors, such as lifestyle, can influence brain aging over relatively short time scales.
About the study
The study was part of DIRECT PLUS, a large-scale, 18-month clinical trial involving 300 participants.
For this particular investigation, researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel studied 102 individuals who met the criteria for obesity. Participants received a brain scan at the beginning and the end of the program; more tests and measurements were also conducted at these times to capture other biological processes affected by obesity, such as liver health.
The researchers used the brain scans to examine the impact of the lifestyle intervention on brain aging. The results revealed that a reduction in body weight of 1% led to participants’ brain age being almost 9 months younger than the expected brain age after 18 months.
This slowing of brain aging was also associated with other biological changes, such as decreased liver fat and liver enzymes. Increases in liver fat and production of specific liver enzymes have previously been shown to negatively affect brain health in Alzheimer’s disease.
These findings show that lifestyle interventions which promote weight loss can have a beneficial impact on the aging of the brain seen with obesity.
The next steps will include figuring out whether slowing down obesity-driven brain aging results in better clinical outcomes for patients.
What is the “green” Mediterranean diet?
The DIRECT-PLUS trial research team was the first to introduce the concept of the green-Mediterranean, high-polyphenol diet. This modified Mediterranean diet is distinct from the traditional Mediterranean diet because it is higher in dietary plant compounds called polyphenols and lower in red and processed meat.
The diet includes a daily intake of walnuts (28 grams), 3 to 4 cups of green tea and 1 cup of a green shake made with duckweed (Wolffia-globosa), an aquatic plant.
Source: eLife, May 11, 2023.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.