Our body needs fat to function properly. Form or a cushion around our organs, they support hormonal function, help us store energy and vitamins, and regulate body temperature.
The essential body fat percentages (as you need it to live) for men are around 2–5% and 10–13% in women. Losing weight to approach these percentages, however, is an ordeal. Don't believe it? Ask any body builder. On the other hand, getting to the opposite excesses has become too, too simple.
Obesity it is on the rise everywhere in industrialized countries, and is fast becoming the norm. In some countries the share of obese people touch 40%. It goes without saying that the consequences are dire: cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, some cancers, osteoarthritis and asthma.
Ah! I forgot (it must be said): obesity ages the brain. Quickly. If we consider parameters such as brain volume, cortical thickness and surface area, the brain of obese people is, on average, about 10 years older than that of non-obese people. Losing weight is essential to avoid damage, but can it do even more?
Does losing weight rejuvenate the brain?
Is brain aging associated with obesity reversible? A new study (I link it here) seems to show this very clearly.
- 87 participants the study (65 females, 22 males) had an average BMI of about 44 (very obese). It is the kind of obesity that forces you to surgically lose weight operations.
The researchers used a large dataset from MRI scans to develop a brain age assessment model, and tested this model on a control group. Result? Obesity is related to a brain that is about 7 years older. And then these people had surgery.
What happened after the bariatric surgery?
Participants' brains were evaluated before surgery and 4, 12, and 24 months after surgery. The brain is rejuvenated by 2,9 and 5,6 years respectively, and of course many other parameters have improved (blood pressure and insulin resistance above all).
It makes sense: Losing excess weight improves many health indicators, and any of these can affect brain age. Of course, maybe the MRI will not capture some subtle aspects of brain aging, and we need to evaluate the "rejuvenation" in people with more moderate obesity, but the data is absolutely relevant.
It could guide future approaches to treatment, and motivate obese people even more to lose weight: a more intelligent choice than ever.