News related to obesity has recently been splattered all over the news, even more than usual in my opinion.  The latest headline is that obese or overweight patients had significantly less brain matter than those whose weights were considered normal.  The research article, "Brain Structure and Obesity," resulted from a collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and was published online this month in the scientific journal Human Brain Mapping.  The senior author on the publication was quoted in the U. S. News & World Report as saying, "The brains of obese people looked 16 years older than their healthy counterparts while [those of] overweight people looked 8 years older."

An important thing to note about the research article is that their test subjects were an average age of 77 years old; therefore, these specific results are only applicable to the elderly population.  I looked through the research article itself and was happy to see that the genders were fairly represented in the test groups, with women comprising approximately 50% of the patients tested in normal, overweight, and obese groups.  As presented in the paper, authors did not find any striking differences correlated to gender; their results were equally applicable to both men and women.  It was acknowledged that there is some controversy among scientists regarding the association between brain volume and gender, and the authors cited additional published studies from other laboratories.  It was noted in their conclusion that gender effects are an important variable to pay attention to in future studies.  You can access a summary of the research article here.

Obesity is a sensitive issue for everyone, but a 2006 study suggested that it may affect the quality of life of women more than men.  A team led by Dr. Peter Muennig of Columbia University looked at existing data from a 2000 survey on health and quality of life.  More than 13,000 adults participated in this survey administered by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Dr. Muennig and colleagues also incorporated data from 1990-1995 on death rates in the U. S. into their study.  They concluded that health-related drops in quality of life scores were four times higher for overweight women than overweight men, and more than two times higher for obese women than obese men.  More strikingly, the authors found that there were about twice as many deaths among overweight and obese women than for men (when compared to their normal-weight counterparts) for the time represented in their study.  WebMD has a nice summary of the article here (including its caveats), or you can access the full article for free through PubMed Central.

You can help further these studies by participating in ventures such as the Illinois Women's Health Registry, or similar surveys administered in your state (or country, etc.)!  What do you think about these studies and their results?   Has obesity affected you or your loved ones in any way?

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Thanks Alison, what great articles! The increased obesity rates over the past 20 years are staggering and it's very concerning as a parent. You want to feed your child well and give them the best start, but so much of the information is difficult to decipher. Plus we are surrounded by junk food all the time! Check out this CDC link if you haven't already and click through the years. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html With asthma and allergies, autism, gluten insensitivity, ADHD, all having links to nutrition, as a country we really need to focus our energy on prevention and wellness. I truly believe many diseases and health conditions can be avoided simply by altering our diets. The tricky thing is to figure out how and to have will-power. Two main culprits I desperately try to stay away from are high fructose corn syrup and any product that has the word hydrogenated in the label (although I do love my Coffee-mate creamer).

You'd think eating lots of stuff with extra hydrogen would make us lighter! Hahahaha. To bring out another point about the interplay between science and government/society, the only real reason we have so much HFCS in our diets in the US is because our government has made corn a much cheaper sweetener than regular sugar. By placing high import fees and taxes on sugar, they protect the interests of the American farmer, possibly at the health risk to all of us. Yet another reason we should all stay educated on the science that directly affects us.

They didn't think the correlation was direct, i.e. that obesity caused loss in brain volume or vice versa. Instead, they think it was an indirect relationship caused by factors that can affect both body mass index and brain tissue like reduced exercise, respiratory defects, or Type II diabetes among others. There definitely needs to be more follow-up work done to tease out where the direct relationships are!

Great blog post, Alison!! That's such an odd finding. They didn't find a loss of brain activity, but a loss of actual brain tissue?? Creepy! Other than neurodegenerative diseases that cause big holes in the brain tissue, I wasn't aware that the brain could just lose mass, especially from something so seemingly unrelated as weight gain. Did they give any guesses to why the correlation exists?

This is an interesting research about how our brain affects our weight. I am wondering if <a href="http://brainpowertips.com/" rel="nofollow">brain power</a> of individual has something to do with obesity? Indeed reserach like this is always a good read. TFS!

yes, lots of disease came from <a href="http://www.uhctv.org" rel="nofollow">obesity</a> ,and 60% of U.S people are overweight, how can we fix it? that`s the question btw thanks for this nice info

What a great reminder of how important it is to watch our weight. There are so many reasons why North Americans should do everything in their power to avoid obesity and this study (“Brain Structure and Obesity") is another reason to keep a healthy weight as we age. Thanks for the great article! Krizia

As a former Montana state legislator and Chair of the Health and Human Services committee, I try to read all the blogs on health I can...mens or womens health makes no difference to me. We are all in this together. My wife of 41 years read this post and was very disturbed. She is not obese, but does carry extra weight. She is now learning all she can about obesity and brain function. Her sisters are very obese,in their 60's and she worries about them, too. Thanks for the thought provoking article.

Obesity is the most prevalent, fatal, chronic, relapsing disorder of the 21st century. Obesity is a leading cause of United States mortality, morbidity, disability, healthcare utilization and healthcare costs.

I think this information impacted me more than any other reason for weight loss and I hope it has a strong effect on others. I feel it is really important to share this with others and I plan to put this on other blogs and forums.

Even if you are thin you can tune your brain by moving. I am thin and sitting all day in front of a computer...and feeling bad. When I move for 15 minutes outside (just a simple walk) I feel like Hulk and could work for hours. Unfortunately I am lazy and dont imagine that I need to move...

With Obesity being such a major problem in the U.S today , I would like to think that the govt would make Healthy Veg meals more cheaper, and possibly raise the taxes on the fatty starchy foods.

Obesity may affect the quality of life of women more than men. Well, all women should aware of this. Obesity can also affect relationships , ie, keeping one healthy &amp; also getting into one in the first place.

With Obesity being such a major problem in the U.S today , I would like to think that the govt would make Healthy Veg meals more cheaper and possibly raise the taxes on the fatty starchy foods.

This is an interesting research about how our brain affects our weight. This is another reason to make all effort control weight and, of course, to maintain a good regimen of exercise.

Other than neurodegenerative diseases that cause big holes in the brain tissue, I wasn’t aware that the brain could just lose mass, especially from something so seemingly unrelated as weight gain.

There is some conscise information here about fertility, miscarriages and also fatality in women due to gluten intolerance. I've noticed 2 references from medical journals which highlight the risks involved when women go undiagnosed and untreated. Quite important really, especially when you consider the increase risk of death.

This is another reason to make all effort control weight and, of course, to maintain a good regimen of exercise.

This is very interesting research. This is another reason to make all effort control weight and, of course, to maintain a good regimen of exercise

This is very interesting research. As being overweight or obese can cause so many other health problems too, it really reinforces the need, particularly for women, to maintain a healthy weight.

The numbers here very scary. We all should try to keep our weight under control. I found an interesting site with free recipes about somtum--a thai green papaya salad <a href="http://www.somtum.info" rel="nofollow">http://www.somtum.info</a>. Its a favorite dish among thai people. I'd like to have the figure some of those women have.

<a href="http://www.medicationnatural.com" rel="nofollow">Natural Medication</a> <a href="http://www.hdrecovery.org" rel="nofollow">HD Recovery</a> More good reasons to get the weight under control. Found some resources that could help people also. Natural medication is always the route I go. <a href="http://www.psychicparanormal.org" rel="nofollow">Psychic Paranormal</a> <a href="http://www.facadetarot.org" rel="nofollow">Facade Tarot</a> <a href="http://www.medicationnatural.com/categories/medication-natural" rel="nofollow">Medication Natural</a>

Around one in four men and one in three women in the UK are overweight, according to government statistics. The Department of Health predicts that if this trend continues, by the end of 2010 around 6.6 million men will be obese compared to 6 million women. Scary statistics.

Other than neurodegenerative diseases that cause big holes in the brain tissue, I wasn’t aware that the brain could just lose mass, especially from something so seemingly unrelated as weight gain.

The article states that obesity is a sensitive issue for everyone, but we have to remember those people suffering rheumatoid arthitis where overweight can cause much more pain.

This is an interesting article that addresses some of the unseen issues with obesity. I ave found that there are many sub-conscious habits, beliefs and behaviors that impact the eating pattern in children and adults. It isn't as simple as dieting. If underlying belief changes aren't made, then the battle is lost. Glad to see some research on the brain and it's activity when it comes to obesity.

Not to mention, obesity is linked to a wide variety conditions such as gout, high blood pressure and a higher risk of heart attack. I suppose a lifestyle change is in order for most Americans but with the fast food lifestyle in order, this will be hard.

The real issue here is there's a lot more talk than action about obesity and losing weight! My take is it's just not a priority for many people, and most of us don't become overweight overnight! It's taken us years to get this way...so why bother changing now?

I'm a mom to two children one of which is afflicted with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and have been using home made natural remedies to manage it. I've read quite a bit regarding drug usage such as Adderrall or Ritalin but was reluctant to put such a young child through drug use. Also, quite a few of the users of those drugs had mentioned that they were addicted to the drugs over long periods of usage. I'd just like to mention that although it is a behavioral disorder, it is at least possible to manage the symptoms and it works.

Obesity is a major problem in the US today because of the fast foods that are readily available in everyone's reach. If only people can resist the tempatation and start making their own foods at home, we'll have a significant increase in wellness in our health and lives.

this is a very informative article... it was a surprise to know that being obese or overweight can affect our brains?! well this is another reason that we need to take extra care of our body and health not only for the sake of being sexy but we also need to take care of our brain....

It makes sense that healthy foods feed the brain whereas unhealthy foods deplete it. Look at how sluggish people feel after eating a meal from a fast food restaurant; if it's not good for the entire body then that would include the brain.

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