Scientists from the University of Leiden Medical Center in the Netherlands warn that obesity affects the structure of the human brain.The study, during which MRI data of thousands of people were collected, showed that people with a dangerous amount of excess weight have a smaller amount of important brain structures. A smaller amount of gray matter indicates a loss of nerve cells, while changes in white matter can negatively affect the transmission of electrical signals to a vital organ. Since gray matter plays an important role in the reward system, these changes can make it difficult for people suffering from obesity to control body weight, doctors say.
“We found that higher levels of fat distributed throughout the body are associated with smaller volumes of important brain structures, including gray matter structures that are located in the center of the brain,” says Dr. Ilona Dekkers. – It is interesting that this effect is different for men and women. This suggests that sex is an important modifier of the relationship between the percentage of fat and the size of certain brain structures. ”
To determine how obesity affects the brain, researchers analyzed the results of an MRI scan of 12087 participants. Scanning was carried out using the most modern technologies that distinguish between gray and white matter. It was found that the presence of excess weight was the cause of adverse changes in the structure of the brain. These changes concerned the gray and white matter of the brain. The gray matter contains the main part of the nerve cells, and the white matter consists of long filaments that transmit electrical signals between neurons. The results differed by sex — men with higher total body fat had less gray matter than overweight women. Obese men also had damaged structures that are associated with the reward system of the brain. This system refers to a group of brain structures that are activated by certain stimuli, such as food or drugs.