Thursday, October 15, 2009


This morning I heard about a study from UCLA which I have not personally reviewed. The preliminary findings are far from scientific conclusion, but they give us something to think about and the rationale offered does make sense.

The study involved the brains of normal weight, overweight and obese persons. The initial study was small, only 94 persons, but an additional 200 were scanned to see if the findings would be repeated. Unfortunately, the outcome was the same.

This research like other new research, offers us a hypothesis to test and risk factors to explore but not a conclusion. Ah, you want me to get to the point don’t you? I hesitate because it is a scary outcome for a very common ailment and if it is substantiated with further research we could be in for a heap of trouble and despair.

The subjects underwent brain scans, likely PET scans and these scans were studied for brain tissue loss, or shrinkage. This shrinkage or brain degeneration is a hallmark of memory loss, cognition problems and diagnosis of dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease.

Indeed there was degeneration in both overweight and obese person’s brains as compared to the normal weight subjects. The initial findings were showed substantial loss. The overweight brains were 8 years older than should be and the obese persons 16. I believe that it was said that as much as 8% of brain matter was lost and that a 10% loss was a marker for dementia.

Alzheimer’s specialists note that it is not a surprising finding as they have long suspected that lifestyle is related to disease onset. Also it was said that one reason for the degeneration could be a lack of oxygenated blood flow to the brain due to plaque buildup in ones arteries.

Take home message. A healthy diet and weight as well as exercise can improve or maintain both heart and brain health. And again, this is why weight control is NOT about physical attractiveness, it is a measure of disease probability not beauty. I have many beautiful overweight friends, their weight isn’t making them any more or less beautiful, but it is making them less healthy.

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