Study finds a correlation between neurodegeneration in obese people and Alzheimer’s disease

Obesity-related neurodegeneration mimics Alzheimer’s disease.

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Excess weight in adulthood leads to health complications such as diabetes, hypertension, or dyslipidemia. Obesity is increasingly recognized as a multisystem disease affecting the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular systems.

Previous studies have demonstrated a link between obesity and AD-related alterations such as amyloid buildup and cerebrovascular impairment. However, no study has yet directly compared the patterns of brain atrophy in AD and obesity.

A new study by scientists at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) of McGill University finds a correlation between neurodegeneration in obese people and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients.

Scientists investigated patterns of grey matter shrinkage in obesity and Alzheimer’s disease using a sample of over 1,300 people. They made maps of grey matter atrophy for each group and compared AD patients with healthy controls and obese and non-obese people.

The scientists found that the effects of obesity and AD on grey matter cortical thinning were similar. For instance, both groups showed similar levels of thinning in the left prefrontal cortex and the right temporoparietal cortex. Neurodegeneration may be indicated by cortical thinning. This implies that obesity may result in the same kind of neurodegeneration as AD patients.

Filip Morys, a Ph.D. researcher at The Neuro and the study’s first author, said, “Our study strengthens previous literature pointing to obesity as a significant factor in AD by showing that cortical thinning might be one of the potential risk mechanisms. Our results suggest that decreasing weight in obese and overweight individuals in mid-life, in addition to other health benefits, may also decrease the subsequent risk of neurodegeneration and dementia.”

Published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease on Jan. 31, 2022, this study helps reveal a neurological impact as well, showing obesity may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia.