Scientists Discovered How Certain Types Of Body Fat Decrease The Amount Of Gray Matter In The Brain


A new study has been made from the University of South Australia. The researchers found that some types of obesity lead to a reduction in the brain’s gray matter. They have gone into further investigation to see how it is associated with risk of dementia and stroke. This study comes in a timely fashion because obesity has become common almost everywhere. Hence, the link between body fat and cognitive health can be quite alarming.

The researchers involved reported that people with unfavorable or neutral types of obesity were extremely at risk of reduction in the brain’s gray matter.

Could this be the crucial connection between weight and health? Health experts certainly believe that there’s a link, and hopefully, when they will be able to fully establish their findings, a cure can be made. Or, better yet, a way to avoid the problem altogether.


The Study Explained

This latest study made by researchers from the University of South Australia explores the connection between body fat and the risk of suffering from dementia or stroke. Their findings have found a link between some types of body fat and a reduction in gray matter. The said gray matter is a part of the brain that contains most of its neurons. This is also extremely critical to the individual’s cognitive function.

Lead author Anwar Mulugeta, Ph.D., researcher at the Australian Centre for Precision Health at the University of South Australia, explained the link and said, “We found that people with higher levels of obesity, especially those with metabolically unfavorable and neutral adiposity subtypes, had much lower levels of gray brain matter, indicating that these people may have compromised brain function, which needed further investigation.” Further details of the study appears in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

The Gray Matter and Its Link to cognitive Functioning

Dr. Mulugeta talked to Medical News Today and explained, “Gray matter is an essential component of the brain that is rich in neuronal cell bodies, glial cells, and capillaries. As it is located in different regions of the brain, the gray matter has multiple roles, including learning, memory, cognitive function, attention, and muscle control.”

In a related statement, Dr. Christina E. Wierenga may have not been involved in the study but explained to MNT how “age-related cognitive decline and dementia are often associated with reduced gray matter, called atrophy.” She further added, “For instance, Alzheimer’s disease dementia is associated specifically with hippocampal atrophy, or reduced gray matter in the hippocampus, which extends to other regions as the disease progresses. So, in some regards, [the] quantity of gray matter may signify cognitive health.”


Obesity – An Epidemic

Obesity has been on the rise and has become a worldwide issue. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 2 billion adults currently suffer from being overweight, and a whopping 650 million of those who are overweight suffer from obesity.

The problem isn’t exclusive to adults alone. In fact, extends to children as well. North of 40 million children younger than 5 years old and over 340 million young people aged 15 to 19 years of age have fallen victims to being overweight or obese. The experts from WHO reports that there is an association between overweight or obesity and a variety of health issues such as cardiovascular disease (in particular, heart disease and stroke), diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, such as osteoarthritis, and certain forms of cancer.


The Different Kinds of Obesity

Dr. Mulugeta explained, “In this study, we investigated the causal relationships of individuals within three metabolically different obesity types — unfavorable, neutral, and favorable — to establish whether specific weight groups were more at risk than others.”

The lead author of the study further explained that there are actually three kinds or types of obesity. He  said, “Individuals with a high genetic load for unfavorable adiposity are characterized by fat accumulation around the abdomen and internal organs, high cholesterol, and increased risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.”

He went on to further explain, “Individuals with favorable adiposity have fat accumulation more around the hip and less on the internal organs, with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and connective heart diseases. Individuals with neutral adiposity have no link with type 2 diabetes and connective heart diseases.”

Prof. Elina Hyppönen, the study’s senior author, spoke out about this and said,“Even in a relatively normal weight individual, excess weight around the abdominal area may be a cause of concern.” The professor further added, “It is increasingly appreciated that obesity is a complex condition and that especially excess fat which is located around the internal organs [has] particularly harmful effects on health.”

There is evidence of obesity’s complicated role especially when it comes to the health of a person. Dr. Wierenga actually talked about the “obesity paradox.” For those unfamiliar with the new term, she explained this by saying how “obesity in midlife is associated with poor cognition and increased risk of cognitive decline, but […] increased [body mass index (BMI)] in late life [may be] associated with better cognition — perhaps due to the fact that decreased BMI in late life may reflect overall poorer health/nutrition.”


The Study Finds Connection Between Obesity and Mental Health

The researchers of the study went on to analyze over 336,000 self-reported health records found in the UK Biobank. They managed to document the experiences of almost 28,000 individuals for this before they connected these records collected to hospital and death records to track associations with cases of dementia and with strokes. The findings were alarming because the study found that for every extra 3 kilograms of body weight in a person of average height, the amount of gray matter decreased by about 0.3 percent.

“In practice,” explained Prof. Hyppönen, “our findings very much support the need to look at the type of obesity when assessing the type of likely health impact.”

Dr. Mulugeta also noted, “However, we did not find conclusive evidence to link a specific obesity subtype with dementia or stroke. Instead, our study suggests the possible role of inflammation and metabolic abnormalities and how they can contribute to obesity and gray matter volume reduction.”

While irrefutable evidence has yet to be made, this study is definitely a step closer to finding the solution to problems such as dementia, heart disease, and some types of cancer.