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Obesity in Women Linked to Brain Tissue Loss

Women who are consistently overweight or obese during adulthood may be at increased risk for reduced volume of certain areas of their brain.

Obesity is associated with poor blood flow, high blood pressure, and cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases -- which contribute to a higher dementia risk.

In this study, 290 Swedish women (born in the early 1900s) were followed throughout adulthood and evaluated every five years. In 1992, when they were between 70 and 84 years old, head CT scans were performed to assess any shrinkage in brain volume.

The researchers found that women with losses in their temporal lobes -- the areas of the brain associated with hearing as well other functions -- had body mass index (BMI) measurements throughout adulthood that were 1 to 1.5 points higher than women without any loss in brain volume. BMI is a measurement of how overweight you are.

The researchers calculated that for every 1-point increase in BMI, the risk of losses in the temporal lobes rose by 13% to 15%.

The results suggest that losing excess weight will help protect your brain and minimize problems such as dementia.

Source: Gustafson, D et al, A 24-year follow-up of body mass index and cerebral atrophy. Neurology. 2004 Nov 23;63(10):1876-81