Women who go through most of their lives obese are more likely to lose brain tissue, according to a study in the November 23 issue of Neurology (2004; 63, 1876–81).
Swedish researchers considered the relationship between BMI (i.e., the subject’s body weight in kilograms divided by the square of her height in meters [kg/m2]) and brain atrophy in 290 women born between 1908 and 1922. The participants had four follow-up examinations between 1968 and 1993. During the final exams, a computed tomography (CT) scan measured brain tissue loss.
Researchers linked an overweight or obese BMI to a loss of tissue, specifically in the temporal lobe. Nearly half (144) of the women had temporal atrophy. At the time of the CT scan, average BMI among these women was 27 kg/m2, 1.1-1.5 kg/m2 higher than the women without brain atrophy. Overall, BMI increased in the women over the 24-year period, but the increase was greater for those who lost tissue in the temporal lobe. The risk of atrophy increased 13%–16% for every 1.0 kg/m2 increase in BMI.
“Obesity is related to ischemia, hypertension, and cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases,” said Deborah Gustafson, PhD, of Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Göteborg, Sweden, in a press release. “These conditions contribute to an unhealthy vascular system, and therefore, to a higher dementia risk.”