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As Waistlines Widen, Brains Shrink
Date:8/25/2009

The obese and overweight have less neurological tissue, study finds

TUESDAY, Aug. 25 (HealthDay News) -- For every excess pound piled on the body, the brain gets a little bit smaller.

That's the message from new research that found that elderly individuals who were obese or overweight had significantly less brain tissue than individuals of normal weight.

"The brains of obese people looked 16 years older than their healthy counterparts while [those of] overweight people looked 8 years older," said UCLA neuroscientist Paul Thompson, senior author of a study published online in Human Brain Mapping.

Much of the lost tissue was in the frontal and temporal lobe regions of the brain, the seat of decision-making and memory, among other things.

The findings could have serious implications for aging, overweight or obese individuals, including a heightened risk of Alzheimer's, the researchers said.

"We're all trying to protect our bodies and our brains from aging and this is just one factor that's accelerating that on top of all the other factors such as pollution, smoking, alcohol. We all lose some tissue as we get older and they're saying this is being accelerated," said Paul Sanberg, distinguished professor of neurosurgery and director of the University of South Florida Center for Aging and Brain Repair in Tampa.

According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, 30 percent of American adults 20 years and older -- more than 60 million people -- are now obese, while another 36 percent are considered overweight. Either condition puts you at a much higher risk for type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease, as well as cognitive problems.

The findings seem to explain why heavier people are more prone to such cognitive conditions. "This is the first study to show physical evidence in the brain that connects overweight and obesity and cognitive decline," said Thompson, who
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