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Obesity Shrinks Your Brain Shortens Your Life

Posted August 27, 2009 in Uncategorized

Health professionals have known for decades about the severe health problems caused by obesity, and the cost of obesity to society and industry is a big part of the current health care debate.  Two recent studies shows, however, that the price of obesity to the patient is even higher than previously thought. In addition to increased risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and some cancers, the studies show that the negative effects of obesity include degeneration of the brain, and a shortened lifespan, as well.

In the first study, researchers concluded that the brains of obese people age more quickly than normal-weight people, as much as 16 years faster, researchers say, representing “severe brain degeneration”. Even moderately overweight people had “older” brains than their lean counterparts.(link)

A new study finds obese people have 8 percent less brain tissue than normal-weight individuals. Their brains look 16 years older than the brains of lean individuals, researchers said today.

Those classified as overweight have 4 percent less brain tissue and their brains appear to have aged prematurely by 8 years.

The results, based on brain scans of 94 people in their 70s, represent “severe brain degeneration,” said Paul Thompson, senior author of the study and a UCLA professor of neurology.

“That’s a big loss of tissue and it depletes your cognitive reserves, putting you at much greater risk of Alzheimer’s and other diseases that attack the brain,” said Thompson. “But you can greatly reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s, if you can eat healthily and keep your weight under control.”

“The brains of obese people looked 16 years older than the brains of those who were lean, and in overweight people looked 8 years older,” Thompson said.

(Full article from LiveScience)

The second study showed that the extremely obese will have shorter lives, and for obese smokers, this decrease is even more significant.

Extremely obese people — those who are 80 or more pounds over a normal weight — live three to 12 fewer years than their normal-weight peers, a new study shows.

Just being overweight or moderately obese, however, has little or no effect on life span, the research found. The finding adds to the growing body of evidence that being slightly overweight may have no influence on life expectancy, but being severely overweight trims years off people’s lives.

Economists with RTI International, a non-profit research organization in Research Triangle Park, N.C., analyzed national data on 366,000 people. Among the findings being published online in the journal Obesity:

•Overall, excess weight was responsible for the loss of roughly 95 million years of life in the USA in 2008.

•Non-smokers who are obese — those who are about 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight — have a shorter life span by a year or less.

•Non-smokers who are overweight — about 29 pounds over a healthy weight — do not have shortened lives.

•Smoking takes a toll, too, and very heavy smokers are affected most. An 18-year-old white male who is normal weight and does not smoke can expect to live to age 81. If he’s extremely obese and a smoker, his life expectancy is 60, a difference of 21 years.

The effect of extreme obesity appears to be greater for men than women and for whites than blacks, says Derek Brown, a health economist with RTI International and co-author of the study.
( Full article from USA Today)

Obesity is an epidemic. I cannot stress enough how important addressing this is to individual health and quality of life, as well as the good of society at large.

Overall, about 66% of adults in the USA are either overweight or obese. About one-third of people are in the obese category, meaning they have a body mass index of 30 or greater.

Body mass index, or BMI, is a measure based on height and weight. About 6% of people are extremely obese — that is, they have a BMI of 40 or greater.

There is no time like the present to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and if you or a loved one is obese, a visit to your doctor for a discussion on starting a medically managed weight management program should be a top priority.

Thanks for reading,

Andre Berger, M.D.