A new Australian study using UK data has shown that extra body fat could lead to brain atrophy which increases the risk of dementia and stroke.
Researchers found that increased body fat could lead to increased atrophy of grey matter and consequently the higher risk of declining brain health. They compiled the data from 336,309 UK Biobank participants.
The team analysed the genetic data of the participants within three metabolically different obesity types – unfavourable, neutral and favourable. To establish if some bodyweight groups were more at risk than others.
Both the unfavourable and neutral adiposity subtypes were associated with lower grey matter volume whilst metabolically favourable adiposity was tentatively associated with a higher grey matter volume.
“Generally, the three obesity subtypes have a characteristic of higher body mass index, yet, each type varies in terms of body fat and visceral fat distribution, with a different risk of cardiometabolic diseases,” Dr. Mulugeta said. A researcher in the Australian Centre for Precision Health at the University of South Australia, Adelaide, the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, and the Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacy at Addis Ababa University.
The study did not find any conclusive evidence to link a specific obesity subtype with dementia or stroke. It did suggest that the possible role of inflammation and metabolic abnormalities and how they contribute to obesity and grey matter volume reduction.
“We found that people with higher levels of obesity especially those with metabolically unfavourable and neutral adiposity subtypes had much lower levels of grey brain matter, indicating that these people may have compromised brain function which needed further investigation. However, we did not find conclusive evidence to link a specific obesity subtype with dementia or stroke.”
The researchers highlighted that maintaining a healthy weight is key for public health. They stressed that there is a need to examine the type of obesity when assessing the impact on health.
“Instead, our study suggests the possible role of inflammation and metabolic abnormalities and how they can contribute to obesity and grey matter volume reduction. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for general public health,” said Professor Elina Hyppönen, director of the Australian Centre for Precision Health at the University of South Australia and a researcher at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health.
Dr. Anwar Mulugeta, said: “While the disease burden of obesity has increased over the past five decades, the complex nature of the disease means that not all obese individuals are metabolically unhealthy, which makes it difficult to pinpoint who is at risk of associated diseases, and who is not.”
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