NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Obesity is causing serious changes in the brain structure, according to a recent Dutch study.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Leiden Medical Center in the Netherlands and published in the journal Radiology.
The central nervous system contains two types of tissue: the gray matter and the white matter, the gray matter contains the bodies of nerve cells, while the white matter is composed of axons that connect different parts of the gray matter.
Obesity is one of the most difficult public health problems in the world, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia, suggesting that the disease is causing changes in the brain.
To uncover the magnitude of these changes, the researchers performed a magnetic scan of the brains of more than 12,000 people to monitor the size of the brain's gray matter and its impact on people's obesity.
Gray matter forms a large part of the central nervous system and contains nerve cells responsible for the senses.
Researchers have found that high levels of body fat are associated with differences in the shape and structure of the brain, including the small size of the gray matter.
Changes in the white matter (which surround the central structures of the brain) negatively affect the transmission of signals within the brain networks, the researchers note.
"Our study shows that the high levels of fat distributed to the body are associated with the small size of important brain structures, including the amount of gray matter present in the brain," said researcher Elona Dickers.