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Excess weight and the brain

After comparing white matter in overweight individuals with that of leaner people, researchers at the University of Cambridge in England have concluded that being overweight can alter some brain structures (Neurobiology of Aging, July 27, 2016). White matter is formed of cells that help sustain and nourish neurons as well as fibers that connect different areas of the brain. The researchers examined 473 people between the ages of 20 and 87 and observed that the brains of overweight or obese individuals had a smaller volume of white matter, similar to that of lean individuals 10 years their senior. The brain of an overweight 50-year-old looked like that of a lean 60-year-old. The differences became detectable at the age of 45. Despite this reduction in white matter, overweight individuals apparently do not lose cognitive skills.