Obesity has been linked to a number of serious health issues, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
New research led by the University of Cambridge suggests it may also advance the aging of the brain by 10 years.
The cross-sectional study involved analyzing data from 473 individuals aged 20 to 87 and of varying sizes.
According to a press release by the university, "The researchers divided the data into two categories based on weight: lean and overweight. They found striking differences in the volume of white matter in the brains of overweight individuals compared with those of their leaner counterparts. Overweight individuals had a widespread reduction in white matter compared to lean people."
Obesity problem in America:
Obesity problem in America
Obesity problem in America
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 10: Sugar is listed in the ingredients of a bottle of soda that is displayed in a cooler of a food truck on June 10, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco board of supervisors has approved an ordinance that would require warning labels to be placed on advertisements for soda and sugary drinks to alert consumers of the risk of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. The ordinance would also ban advertising of sugary drinks on city-owned property. If San Francisco mayor Ed Lee approves the measure, the law would be the first of its kind in the nation. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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Subsequent calculations involving loss and age indicated the brains of obese middle-aged individuals appeared roughly 10 years older than those of their lean counterparts.
The team notes that much about the discovery requires further investigation, such as whether obesity is the cause or a consequence of brain changes and if the loss is reversible with reduction in weight.
Notably, the study found "no connection between being overweight or obese and an individual's cognitive abilities, as measured using a standard test similar to an IQ test."