Obesity May Exacerbate the Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease

Priscilla Lynch 

February 02, 2021

Obesity can contribute towards neural tissue vulnerability in cognitively healthy individuals and those with mild cognitive impairment, according to new research involving University of Sheffield.

The study findings also suggests maintaining a healthy weight in mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia could help preserve brain structure in the presence of age- and disease-related weight loss.

The study, published in  The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports,  used multimodal neuroimaging to clarify the relationship between obesity and MRI-defined neural properties across distinct stages of cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease.

Scans were acquired from 47 patients clinically diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia, 68 patients with mild cognitive impairment and 57 cognitively healthy individuals. Voxel-wise associations were run between maps of gray matter volume (GMV), white matter integrity (WMI), and cerebral blood flow (CBF), and global/visceral obesity. Multiple regression models were run using GMV, WMI and CBF maps to examine the associations between these brain parameters and obesity.

The findings indicate that higher indices of obesity within the overweight and obese ranges are linked to reduced brain structure and CBF parameters in cognitively healthy participants and mild cognitive impairment patients.

Negative associations were found in cognitively healthy individuals between obesity and WMI and CBF of temporo-parietal regions.

In mild cognitive impairment, negative associations emerged in frontal, temporal and brain-stem regions. In mild dementia, a positive association was found between obesity and GMV around the right temporo-parietal junction.

Study lead author Professor Annalena Venneri, said: “The diseases that cause dementia such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia lurk in the background for many years, so waiting until your 60s to lose weight is too late. We need to start thinking about brain health and preventing these diseases much earlier. Educating children and adolescents about the burden being overweight has on multimorbidities including neurodegenerative diseases is vital.”

Dake MD, De Marco M, Blackburn DJ, Wilkinson ID, Remes A, Liu Y, Pikkarainenc M, Hallikainenc M, Soininenc H, Venneri A. Obesity and Brain Vulnerability in Normal and Abnormal Aging: A Multimodal MRI Study. J Alzheimers Dis Rep. 2021;5(1):65-77. doi: 10.3233/ADR-200267 View full text

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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