Researchers then used MRIs to measure the volume of each person's brain. They looked at nearly 1,000 people, with an average age of 55, accounting for all kinds of other factors that could potentially sway the results, such as age and how physically active they were.
The scientists found that people with both higher BMI (defined as equal to or greater than 30 kg/m2) and higher waist-to-hip ratio measurements had lower grey matter volume in the brain compared to those who were leaner. "This will need further research but it may be possible that someday regularly measuring BMI and waist-to-hip ratio may help determine brain health".
Researchers from Loughborough University and University College London discovered that people with a high body mass index (BMI) and high waist-to-hip ratio had brains that were 12 cubic cms smaller than people of a healthy weight. Fat accumulated around the middle, which would be represented by a high waist-to-hip ratio, tends to have more toxic effects as it tends to surround abdominal organs like the liver, stomach and intestines than subcutaneous fat, which forms under the skin, by triggering inflammation that can drive everything from heart disease to conditions like arthritis.
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The findings, published in the journal Neurology, showed that after adjusting for other factors that may affect brain volume, such as age, physical activity, smoking and high blood pressure, participants with a high BMI had a slightly lower grey matter volume than those with a healthy BMI. People in the middle, with a high BMI but without high waist-to-hip ratio, had an of 793 cubic centimeters.
Get the latest health and science news, plus: burning questions and expert tips. People who have bigger bellies compared to their hips have a higher ratio, with men above 0.90 and women above 0.85 considered to be centrally obese. While grey matter is involved in reward processing and certain aspects of controlling behavior, it's not clear whether body fat is a driver of these changes in grey matter, or the result of them. "Brain gray matter shrinkage.seems to be associated with obesity and with increased visceral fat", she said.