Obesity appears to accelerate brain aging, international study suggests – Human – Science and technology

Obesity appears to accelerate brain aging. An international team of scientists from Canada, the Czech Republic and Germany found that people with a higher body mass index (BMI) would “age” their brains faster, the Czech National Institute of Mental Health (NUDZ) informed.

Obese patients with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia are more likely to have a more severe course of mental illness, a higher risk of suicide, and are less tolerant of psychiatric treatment. Previous research shows that in obese patients who also suffer from mental illness, more significant changes in their brains have been observed much more frequently.

“It is not clear, however, what is the cause and what is the consequence. Obesity can damage the brain, or it is also possible that some changes in the brain cause a higher risk of obesity, for example, by worsening the regulation of food intake and the like, “said chief researcher Tomáš Hájek.

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According to him, the only way to find out if obesity or changes in the brain first occurred is to monitor patients for a long time. “This is exactly what we did in our research, where we examined patients at the beginning and then again after about one to two years,” Hájek said. The researchers observed brain aging in obese, mentally ill patients as well as in patients without psychosis.

The effects of obesity on the human brain were measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This is a unique approach called BrainAGE. “Surely you’ve ever tried to guess the age of people’s faces. We did the same thing, but instead of a face, we estimated age from MRI scans of the brain. Of course, you can’t do that yourself, “Hájek explained.

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The researchers used MRI images of about 500 healthy volunteers and used machine learning to teach the computer to estimate the age of the brain with very high accuracy. They then applied this model to brain images of people involved in research. For each of them, the computer generated the estimated age of their brain. “If, for example, the subject had BrainAGE +4, it means that his brain seemed to be four years older than his actual age,” Hájek said. Higher BrainAGE researchers considered it an indicator of greater brain damage.

The results showed that in people with the first episode of psychosis, the brain looked on average three to four years older than their actual age. The higher the estimated age of the patients’ brains, the more symptoms they had and the worse the course of the disease. “But we were most interested in whether we could estimate who the brain will age faster in the future. It turned out that psychosis itself did not accelerate the aging of the brain, which is positive news for both patients and doctors. The only factor that was associated with the accelerated aging of the brain was the body mass index, ie an indicator of obesity, “said Hájek.

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He also pointed out that the effect of obesity on accelerated brain aging was also visible in people without psychotic illness, and that obesity is not only harmful to the brains of people with psychosis. In addition to Czech scientists, the research team also included experts from the Canadian Dalhousie University in Halifax in the province of Nova Scotia and a university hospital in the German city of Jena.

Source: Pravda.sk – Veda a technika by vat.pravda.sk.

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