The effect of body mass index on global brain volume in middle-aged adults: a cross sectional study

Ward MA, Carlsson CM, Trivedi MA, Sager MA, Johnson SC

BMC Neurol. 2005 Dec 2;5:23.


BACKGROUND: Obesity causes or exacerbates a host of medical conditions, including cardiovascular, pulmonary, and endocrine diseases. Recently obesity in elderly women was associated with greater risk of dementia, white matter ischemic changes, and greater brain atrophy. The purpose of this study was to determine whether body type affects global brain volume, a marker of atrophy, in middle-aged men and women. METHODS: T1-weighted 3D volumetric magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess global brain volume for 114 individuals 40 to 66 years of age (average = 54.2 years; standard deviation = 6.6 years; 43 men and 71 women). Total cerebrospinal fluid and brain volumes were obtained with an automated tissue segmentation algorithm. A regression model was used to determine the effect of age, body mass index (BMI), and other cardiovascular risk factors on brain volume and cognition. RESULTS: Age and BMI were each associated with decreased brain volume. BMI did not predict cognition in this sample; however elevated diastolic blood pressure was associated with poorer episodic learning performance. CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that middle-aged obese adults may already be experiencing differentially greater brain atrophy, and may potentially be at greater risk for future cognitive decline.

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