Obesity reduces volume of gray matter in the brains of postmenopausal women, according to a new study.
“A subset of women from the Pittsburgh Healthy Women Study (HWS) who had been followed for an average of 15 years was invited to participate in brain imaging studies,” said lead author Isabella Soreca, M.D., an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
“We found that those who had gained the most weight had lower gray matter volume,” Soreca added.
In the study, 48 women participants underwent MRIs to determine the volume of both white and gray matter in their brains.
Researchers excluded participants from the study if their white matter showed specific signs of possible decreases in blood supply to the brain.
They also excluded participants if they had high blood pressure, diabetes or other health concerns.
“Women who gain weight tend to have high blood pressure, impaired glucose tolerance and other health concerns that are known to affect the brain,” Soreca said.
“The group we used were overweight, but were otherwise completely healthy. It was surprising that these healthy women still showed reductions in gray matter volume, and this indicates that weight gain by itself may impact the brain,” Soreca added.
The study appears online in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine.