Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fat People's and Old People's Brains

Fat people have small brains. So says a study, published back in August, that I just stumbled across this weekend.

A new study finds obese people have 8 percent less brain tissue than normal-weight individuals. Their brains look 16 years older than the brains of lean individuals, researchers said today.

Those classified as overweight have 4 percent less brain tissue and their brains appear to have aged prematurely by 8 years.

The results, based on brain scans of 94 people in their 70s, represent "severe brain degeneration," said Paul Thompson, senior author of the study and a UCLA professor of neurology.

Obese people had lost brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes, areas of the brain critical for planning and memory, and in the anterior cingulate gyrus (attention and executive functions), hippocampus (long-term memory) and basal ganglia (movement), the researchers said in a statement today. Overweight people showed brain loss in the basal ganglia, the corona radiata, white matter comprised of axons, and the parietal lobe (sensory lobe).

Be smart. Don't get fat.

On the elderly front, LiveScience reported Friday on two studies that show benefits to older people surfing the internet.

[A] recent study by the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies, a non-profit think-tank in Washington, DC, indicates that spending time online cuts the incidence of depression among senior citizens by at least 20 percent. The results were based on surveys of 7,000 people age 55 and older who were retired and not working, but not living in nursing homes.

"Increased Internet access and use by senior citizens enables them to connect with sources of social support when face-to-face interaction becomes more difficult," said study co-author Sherry G. Ford, a professor at the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Alabama. Hence, they are less susceptible to depression.

Another recent study found that first-time use of the Internet by older adults enhanced brain function and cognition.

There is more to seniors' resistance to surfing the web than sheer crotchetiness, other research shows.

Aging often involves decreased memory, attention, cognitive speed, visual acuity, and fine motor control — the same capacities needed to use a computer. So it's no surprise that senior citizens typically take twice as long to learn digital skills, and are more prone to errors when they do get online, says Neil Charness of Florida State University.

[Researchers] suggest more computer-based brain fitness games for the elderly, since they can slow or even reverse age-related declines in perception and cognition, research shows. However, there is as yet little evidence these games can boost the user's overall quality of life.

The brain is an amazing thing. A big and sharp one is best.


Tsofah said...


What if it's small AND sharp instead?

Question: Does this mean that as one loses weight, their brain grows in size?

OR, is it because their brain is smaller that they are overweight?

Hmmm. Maybe that is why I have such a hard time losing a few lbs?

SkyePuppy said...


In another article that also mentioned this story, they speculated that obesity causes hardening of the arteries, which cuts down on the amount of oxygen getting to the brain, which prevents it from being fully nourished and robust and normal-sized.

Tsofah said...

Darn! I was hoping I had a biological reason it seems to take forever to lose weight.