Scientists explain the negative effects of obesity in Alzheimer’s disease

Scientists explain the negative effects of obesity in Alzheimer's disease

Researchers say maintaining a healthy weight may help preserve brain structure for those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study from the University of Sheffield shows that being overweight is an additional burden on brain health and can exacerbate Alzheimer’s disease. It is all the more important to maintain a healthy weight for mild dementia.

Scientists say weight loss is one of the first symptoms in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, when people forget to eat or snack on cookies or chips instead of more nutritious meals.

“Prevention plays an important role in fighting a disease we still don’t have a cure for. Our study does not show that obesity causes Alzheimer’s disease, it shows that being overweight is an additional burden on brain health and can exacerbate the disease,” explained lead study author Professor Annalena Venneri of the University of Sheffield’s Institute of Neurobiology and NIHR’s Sheffield Biomedical Research Center.

Professor Venneri added that the diseases that cause dementia (Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia) can be asymptomatic in the carrier for years, so waiting until age 60 to lose weight is too late. We should think about brain health and prevention of these diseases in advance.

Researchers from the University of Sheffield and the University of Eastern Finland studied MRI scans of the brains of 47 patients clinically diagnosed with mild dementia of Alzheimer’s disease, 68 patients with moderate cognitive impairment and 57 cognitively healthy people.

The international team compared several brain images and measured differences in local brain tissue concentrations to assess the amount of gray matter that breaks down at the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, white matter integrity, cerebral blood flow and obesity.

In patients with mild dementia, a positive association was found between obesity and gray matter volume around the right temporoparietal junction. This suggests that obesity may contribute to neural vulnerability in cognitively healthy people and people with moderate cognitive impairment.
The study also showed that maintaining a healthy weight for mild dementia in Alzheimer’s disease may help preserve brain structure in the presence of age- and disease-related weight loss.

“We found that maintaining a healthy weight can help preserve brain structure in people who are already experiencing mild dementia with Alzheimer’s disease. Unlike other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, people don’t often think about the importance of nutrition in relation to neurological disease, but these findings show that it can help preserve brain structure,” the researchers added in a paper published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports.