A new study from the researchers of the University of Sheffield has found that obesity could be an additional burden on your brain health and it may even exacerbate Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports, also highlighted how obesity in mid-life could have an impact on your brain health in older age.

Lead author Prof. Annalena Venneri said, “More than 50 million people are thought to be living with Alzheimer’s disease and despite decades of groundbreaking studies and a huge global research effort we still don’t have a cure for this cruel disease.”

“Prevention plays such an important role in the fight against the disease,” she explained. “It is important to stress this study does not show that obesity causes Alzheimer’s, but what it does show is that being overweight is an additional burden on brain health and it may exacerbate the disease.”

“The diseases that cause dementia such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia lurk in the background for many years, so waiting until your 60s to lose weight is too late,” Prof. Venneri added. “We need to start thinking about brain health and preventing these diseases much earlier. Educating children and adolescents about the burden being overweight has on multimorbidities including neurodegenerative diseases is vital.”

The researchers looked at the MRI brain scans of “47 patients clinically diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s disease, 68 patients with mild cognitive impairment, and 57 cognitively healthy individuals,” according to Medical Xpress.

They used three complementary, computational techniques to examine the brain’s anatomy, the fibers of the brain, and blood flow.

The team then compared multiple brain images, measuring differences in local concentrations of brain tissues to assess the grey matter, white matter, cerebral blood flow, and obesity. Grey matter volume degenerates during the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

In patients with mild dementia, the team found a positive association between obesity and grey matter volume, suggesting that obesity might have a role in neural vulnerability in cognitively healthy individuals.

The researchers also found that maintaining a healthy weight could help preserve brain structure in the presence of age and disease-related weight loss, according to Medical Xpress.

Co-author of the study Dr. Matteo De Marco of the University of Sheffield’s Neuroscience Institute said, “Weight-loss is commonly one of the first symptoms in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease as people forget to eat or begin to snack on easy-to-grab foods like biscuits or crisps, in place of more nutritional meals.”

“We found that maintaining a healthy weight could help preserve brain structure in people who are already experiencing mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia,” he added.

“Unlike other diseases such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, people don’t often think about the importance of nutrition in relation to neurological conditions, but these findings show it can help to preserve brain structure.”

The article was originally published last week in Medical Xpress.