A new study from the University of South Australia finds that some types of obesity lead to a reduction in the brain’s gray matter and investigates its association with risk of dementia and stroke.
With obesity becoming more and more common, the link between body fat and cognitive health raises an alarm.
Researchers report that people with unfavorable or neutral types of obesity were at highest risk of reduction in the brain’s gray matter.
A new study from researchers at the University of South Australia explores a link between body fat and a higher risk of dementia or stroke.
The study finds a link between some types of body fat and a reduction in gray matterTrusted Source, a part of the brain that contains most of its neurons and is critical to cognitive function.
Lead author Anwar Mulugeta, Ph.D., researcher at the Australian Centre for Precision Health at the University of South Australia, explains,
“We found that people with higher levels of obesity, especially those with metabolically unfavorable and neutral adiposity subtypes, had much lower levels of gray brain matter, indicating that these people may have compromised brain function, which needed further investigation.”
“Gray matter,” Dr. Mulugeta told Medical News Today, “is an essential component of the brain that is rich in neuronal cell bodies, glial cells, and capillaries.
As it is located in different regions of the brain, the gray matter has multiple roles, including learning, memory, cognitive function, attention, and muscle control.”
As such, Dr. Christina E. Wierenga, who was not involved in the study, told MNT that “age-related cognitive decline and dementia are often associated with reduced gray matter, called atrophy.”
Dr. Wierenga added: “For instance, Alzheimer’s disease dementia is associated specifically with hippocampal atrophy, or reduced gray matter in the hippocampus, which extends to other regions as the disease progresses. So, in some regards, [the] quantity of gray matter may signify cognitive health.”
Obesity is on the rise worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 2 billionTrusted Source adults currently have overweight, and 650 million of them have obesity.
The problem extends to children as well, with nearly 40 million children younger than 5 years old and over 340 million young people aged 15–19 years also considered to have overweight or obesity.