A Swedish study of obese women has linked obesity to dementia and brain atrophy, a condition resulting in the loss of brain tissue. Although researchers were unable to determine how obesity may lead to brain atrophy, they were able to make a clear correlation between obesity and diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which can lead to the loss of brain tissue. The study followed 290 women between the ages of 82 and 96 with follow-up exams in 1968 and 1992. At the last exam in 1992, researchers measured brain atrophy with a CT scan. By comparing the CT scan results to the body mass index (BMI) of the women, they were able to determine an increased risk of brain tissue loss in the temporal lobe among the overweight and obese women.That particular area of the brain is critical to language, memory, and hearing. Among the women exhibiting signs of brain atrophy, their BMI was 1.1 to 1.5 points higher than those women without brain atrophy. Further, researchers found that as the BMI increased, brain atrophy increased 13% to 16%. This study underscores the importance of maintaining a healthy weight, not only for physical well-being, but for mental health.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.