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Being obese may lead to accelerated brain aging.


On 4 August 2016, Daily Mail Online published an article "Obese People's Brains Age More Rapidly, Research Finds". It reports that fat people have OLDER brains based on a
scientific study that was conducted and reported in the journal Neurobiology of Ageing, showing that white matter in overweight and obese people is equivalent to that of a
lean individual who is a decade older.

HOW WAS THE STUDY CONDUCTED? Is there an association between

The study involved 527 healthy subjects with an age range of 20 - 87 years. The
study also spans over a period of 5 years. Variables considered to determine the obesity & brain aging?
aging of brain based on being lean, overweight or obese, are body mass index
(BMI) and white-matter volume. Association = Causation?
Structural images of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) were acquired on a 3T
Siemens TIM Trio system employing a 32-channel head coil. Cortical
reconstruction techniques were used to generate measures of whole-brain
cerebral white-matter volume, cortical thickness, and surface area. These
variables were obtained to determine the age of the brain. Body mass index (BMI) Is Muscle
was calculated as the ratio of weight (kilograms, kg) to height (metres, m) squared.
Atomistic Quantitative Attenuation
Mass a Fallacy Effect?
The measure of BMI was used to determine between the distinction of being lean, Bias Analysis
overweight or obese individuals.

The study concluded that adiposity modulates the relationship between white-
matter volume and age.
However, the determinant that segregates the lean, overweight and obese
BMI values A research comparison was done on adults of
approximately 40 years old, stating a claim that
BMI = Weight (in kg) As seen from the formula of BMI, muscle mass is Overweight and Obese subjects have an increase in brain
Height (in m) not accounted for in the calculation. age by 10 years when compared to Lean subjects.

As a result, this might cause a very fit individual with high However, there are no Obese subjects of
muscle mass and low fat percentage to be classified as obese, approximately 40 years old to make such a
introducing a potential confounder to the study - Muscle Mass. conclusion as the age ranges from 45 to 77 years

Thus, Atomistic Fallacy is committed as an

Is Muscle
Atomistic incorrect inference of Overweight and Obese
Mass a subjects is done using the information of the
Specify Confounder? Overweight subjects.

A self-report questionnaire was distributed to calculate the

Quantitative total estimated physical activity per week (kJ/d/Kg).
Effect As participants were required to estimate amount of
energy they spent on physical activities, human error
arises as estimations are subjected to human judgement.

Research Study: Many of us overestimate how hard we work out

carried out by York University
In general, during each of the tests, the volunteers
overestimated how hard they were exercising, said Jennifer L..
Range Alters the Attenuation Kuk, a professor at York University who oversaw the
Restriction Correlation effect Collect &
experiment. (Reynolds, 2014)
Thus, participants may inaccurately estimate the intensity of
Two categories, underweight and severely obese, were omitted from the study their exercise,
due to scanner limitations.This may:
Affect the true scale of the effect of brain aging Problem in
Self-report Inaccurate Human
Understate the correlation between brain ageing and BMI Analyse Questionnaire Estimation Judgement
Collect &
Analyse Portion

All in all, the article titled Fat people have OLDER brains: White matter in
A definite conclusion on overweight people is the equivalent to someone who is a decade older
suggests a causation that fat people will have older brains. However, there

whether there is an association

is insufficient evidence to prove that there is a causation between these two
factors as this is an observational study where the researcher had no control
over the composition of the control groups.
cannot be made. Hence, to deduce a definite conclusion, further studies should be carried out
to gather sufficient evidence.