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Obesity May Accelerate Brain Aging 289

natehoy writes "According to the US News and World Report, a recent study has shown a link between obesity and the loss of neurological tissue. The brains of elderly patients who were obese had on average 8% less tissue than their trimmer counterparts. Overweight patients had brains lighter by about 4%. This could have implications for the onset of dementia illnesses such as Alzheimer's. Just one more risk factor to add to the growing body (no pun intended) of reasons to try and stay trim."
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Obesity May Accelerate Brain Aging

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  • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @03:39PM (#29206755) Journal

    Between Obesity and the loss of food in my kitchen.

    But seriously - this seems like its leading to a "Overweight people aren't smart enough to care about their health" kind of thing.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @03:40PM (#29206781)

    Do they even TRY to adjust for the fact that fat people avoid getting health care most of their lives (because they're more likely to get tired of getting harassed by their doctor about their weight every time they go in for even a flu shot), drink more than thin people (getting shit on regularly can have that effect on people), and have crappier jobs than their normal-sized counterparts with the consequent lower incomes and inferior health care (because it's a lot harder to get hired)?

    I'm not pretending that obesity has no effect on someone's health. But it just irks the hell out of me that these sensational studies always fail to adjust for these sorts of related factors in favor of the sensational (and grant whoring) headline of "Obesity correlates with such-and-such other calamity." I'm sure you could produce a study arguing that obesity makes you stupid too, by simply failing to adjust for the fact that the obese are often geographically concentrated in areas (like the American South) where public education is shit and poverty is high.

    Why don't we just say that fat people are worse than Hitler and be done with it? You know, the way we've already done with anyone who dares smoke anything other than marijuana (which is somehow magically good for you), or who eats meat, or who drives an SUV (which some self-righteous asshole will probably link to sudden infant death syndrome in some future study), or any of the hundred other things that are going to kill us all any day now.

    Is it any coincidence that the medical profession was once closely linked to the idea [] that all illness was caused by immoral behavior?

  • by Goldberg's Pants ( 139800 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @03:59PM (#29207057) Journal

    This study is such absolute balls. Like the "gamers are depressed loners" study that popped up on here last week, it's another flawed study.

    Seriously, Slashdot needs to stop promoting these ridiculous studies. Fully expect the "sugar is bad" one from a day or two back to turn up on here soon.

    A study, with so much bluster, and they studied just 94 people.

    Chuck a couple of zeros on that, then perhaps you have the makings of a worthwhile study and not just an anecdote.

    There is increasing evidence that obesity is not the death sentence so many seem to claim. There is also more and more evidence proving the BMI that determines if you are obese is absolute garbage.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @04:00PM (#29207079)

    But seriously - this seems like its leading to a "Overweight people aren't smart enough to care about their health" kind of thing.

    The fact that overweight people aren't rational enough to care about their own health, appearance, or comfort is something which is rather obvious to the rest of us. Most of us are just too polite to go around pointing it out in polite conversation.

  • by adewolf ( 524919 ) <> on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @04:00PM (#29207081) Journal
    Couch potatoism might be to blame. Our culture is based on watching TV and being on the computer (sniker) most of the time. Wanna help stem the bad health, go with your kids for a walk or hike. Walk the dog. Get offa the couch.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @04:01PM (#29207115)
    No. Statistical analyses work just fine with 94 people if the effect size is strong.
  • by Ardaen ( 1099611 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @04:07PM (#29207211)

    Maybe just put a treadmill in front of the keyboard instead of a chair. A slow to moderate walking pace should be easy enough to adapt to for typing and would probably increase blood flow to the brain. I know going for short walks once or twice an hour improves my productivity (and creativity) while working on computers.

  • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @04:15PM (#29207343) Journal

    I think the study adjusts for those factors perfectly well, in fact you're introducing some interesting possibilities as to an explanation for the link. The study (which is small, so we should obviously be cautious about drawing too many conclusions from it) only states that people who are obese appear to have less brain function. A few theories were forwarded to explain the link, but your theory is just as sound, and doesn't disprove the possible link.

    Let's follow your chain of events for a moment. John is obese. John avoids his doctor because he's tired of being hassled about his weight. Fair enough - that's pretty common.

    John is now in a negative feedback loop. He's receiving almost no advice on his diet, no encouragement to exercise, and probably is understandably demoralized from being called "fatty" and getting unwelcome advice from health freakazoids that he's likely to give up on health maintenance entirely. Poorer nutrition and less exercise mean that John's entire body is going to suffer, including the brain.

    It's actually as good a theory as any. Obesity would have a significant correlation with people who are not caring for their overall health properly, and obesity can be both cause and effect in this case. John isn't a bad guy, he's just stuck in a rut, and he's headed for possible trouble.

    I know John's story.

    I'm 6' 3" and used to weigh very close to 300 pounds. I avoided my doctor for over a decade for the same reason John might.

    It's tough to get started losing weight, and having a bunch of skinnyminnies around you crybabying about how you should get off your very large posterior and do something is not, repeat not, helpful. It's demoralizing, and makes the task of getting started look all that much harder.

    It took a health scare for me to start the very long, very hard trail, and I'm now down to 215 (still mildly overweight, but I can ride my bike 30 miles a day without any problems). I wish terribly that I had learned my lesson an easier way, but I didn't, and I'm sure being obese for as long as I was will have long-term consequences. But I was where I was, and I understand how very hard it is to get started, and how the general attitude of society toward the obese does not make them want to help themselves. I wanted to just curl up with my Ben and Jerry's and donuts and leave me the hell alone.

    I've encouraged several friends over the years to get up and just take short walks with me, and started a couple of them on the road to weight loss, but you've got to approach that sort of overture carefully, and have a sense for when your friend is ready to start helping themselves, then offer them some encouragement.

  • by LrdDimwit ( 1133419 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @04:29PM (#29207561)
    So you 1) point out that correlation does not equal causation, then proceed to 2) say that it's likely that the obesity causes the brain aging seen in this study?

    Because that is essentially your argument: that obesity directly causes a host of other factors, which collectively explain the observed correlation (brain aging). Therefore, obesity causes the mental decline, only indirectly. I fail to see any significant difference between the implication that obesity directly harms the brain, and that obesity, while not in itself injurious, causes people to behave in ways that are.
  • by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @04:44PM (#29207819) Homepage Journal

    There is already a clear understanding of the cause of obesity via carbohydrate consumption, combined with the effects of said consumption on the production of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) in the brain, and their effect on cognitive function.

    I'd be very cautious when using the words "clear understanding" with nearly anything in cognitive science. Scientists didn't even pay attention to neurotropic factors in the brain until relatively recently, and if you ignore factors that can cause neural growth (like... excercise - scientists are guessing that excercise is neurotropic since we need to often map out new areas when walking a lot) it's hard to make a statement that obsesity caused by eating too much is the cause of cognitive decline, as opposed to obesity caused by not exercising enough. In fact, I think that if you exercise a lot, obesity almost vanishes as a cause of a lot of problems.

    You also have related issues like eating too much / not exercising enough contributes to diabetes, and having high blood glucose levels causes a wide variety of problems, such as damage to small blood vessels and a (likely related) decline in neural function.

    But we're still in the stone age when it comes to all this kind of stuff.

  • by Vancorps ( 746090 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @05:15PM (#29208281)

    Add up the percentage of time doing said activities, if they exceed a certain threshold you're better off renting a truck when it's time to haul some stuff. Given the crappy gas mileage and other down sides to SUVs it'll be hard to justify unless you're doing that stuff all the time. Of course if you can afford several bikes and quads then you can probably afford a $9000 point A to point B car which will save you a ton in gas, insurance, and maintenance.

    So while I don't have anything in particular against an SUV, I don't find anything particularly good about them either. They perform a lot of functions, poorly. For the majority of people a truck and a passenger car or wagon will meet their needs and they won't be wasting money on larger tires, won't have to pay for at least twice as much gas, and will have a car meant to be driven instead of an SUV.

    I witnessed a car accident recently, 35mph an SUV got t-boned and flipped over. After that I had a pretty dim view of the large SUVs out there. The crossovers aren't so bad but the question is invariably why? I grew up in Vermont with a Ford Probe, front wheel drive and I never had any problems in the snow. Why does everyone need four wheel drive?

  • by SBrach ( 1073190 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @05:55PM (#29208887)
    Stop wasting energy posting on Slashdot and go live in the woods and I will believe you care so strongly about "mucking up the environment." Right now I just think your a douchebag hippy with a holier than thou attitude who thinks he has the right to dictate how complete strangers spend their free time.
  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @06:07PM (#29209049) Homepage Journal

    The douchebags are those who have to go out into the "wilderness" with their bikes and ATV's to tear up wild life habitat, all the while pouring their exhaust fumes into the world's air supply. Hippy? I'm not old enough. And, don't try with the liberal bleeding heart crap. Bleeding hearts won't kill a cute little bunny and eat it. Instead of eating squirrels, they feed peanut and stuff to the tree rats.

    Think of the children. If you get them HIKING through the woods, instead of tearing the woods up on an ATV, the bearers of your DNA are more likely to live a long, healthy life.


  • by RobDude ( 1123541 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @06:14PM (#29209157) Homepage

    There is nothing inherently irrational about being overweight.

  • by Calithulu ( 1487963 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @06:16PM (#29209197)

    Do you really think this would have ended better in a Prius?

    Given the weight of a Prius (2932 lbs and old ones are heavier) and its lower center of gravity than most SUVs, yes.

  • by SBrach ( 1073190 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @06:59PM (#29209811)
    My truck tows 6,500lbs, and can haul 1700 in the bed. I can also seat 5 while doing so. I would not like to hook up a trailer for a run around the corner to home depot and if I owned a toy hauler that would be even more impractical. Not to mention my truck gets better gas mileage than both of those lowered SUVs, sorry mini-vans, you listed. The fact is for the average American home owner, a 4 door pickup or SUV is a very practical vehicle. The compromises you suggest are more expensive and less convenient.
  • by Vancorps ( 746090 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @07:12PM (#29209983)

    First of all, yes, it would have ended better in Prius as the SUV tipped over which is not something a smaller car would have done.

    You'll also note my very first sentence. If time doing said activities reaches a certain threshold then it makes sense. For the majority of people it doesn't and they've made poor choices. For you it does make sense which is why I wasn't making any statements that they should be banned. I come from farm country, believe me, I know there are times when you need a truck.

    The reality is that you don't need an SUV for even hauling a dirt bike, you just want one. Every car I've ever owned has been capable of towing at least 1800lbs. You're saving estimate doesn't take into consideration the fact that tires cost more than double for an SUV, and that oil changes are more expensive due to needing more than twice the oil.

    At some point you realize that you'd just rather drive something big than something practical but don't fool yourself into believing there are a lot of good reasons for it. I've seen far too many F250 or F350 trucks hauling 3000lbs trailers, it's simply overkill.

    By all means, keep your truck, it sounds like you use it for what it is often enough to make it worthwhile. Just don't be surprised when people see your spending as wasteful. It's your money, you can do with it as you please.I just think a wagon is far more practical for all the things you've listed with a trailer for times when you need to transport bikes or get mulch.

  • by SBrach ( 1073190 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @07:43PM (#29210267)
    See the problem with this logic is that people compare the cost of large trucks to small cars. When you compare my 4 door tacoma to a 4 door camry the savings aren't as obvious. I went from a compact (scion tc) to a 4 door long bed pickup. I can haul basically anything I want, I get 4mpg less than the scion (22 compared to 26) and I can easily fit 5 people. Tires are the same price, about 150 each but the truck tires last twice as long. It holds 2 more quarts of oil and my insurance is 80 a month instead of 120. For someone who owns a house and is often times hauling things like furntiture, landscaping materials, building supplies, grocceries, tools, etc it is much more economical to own a pickup. I traded in my car for my truck about 6 months after we bought our house because we were constantly borrowing trucks from friends and family members. The Infiniti G35 my wife drives gets 18mpg and can't haul hardly anything or fit more than 2 people comfortably. The mid size SUV she wants to trade it in on will be much more practical. Not everyone wants to drive econo boxes and in most cases V6 SUVs and pickups are hard to beat when compared to full size cars and minivans when it comes to practicality and cost.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @09:42PM (#29211265)

    There is also more and more evidence proving the BMI that determines if you are obese is absolute garbage.

    Oh please, there's no way you could have a BMI of 30 and consider yourself healthy. Great way to put yourself on a fast track for diabetes.

    I'm guessing you're obese, aren't you?

  • by SBrach ( 1073190 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @10:05PM (#29211415)

    I can't afford to have multiple vehicles for every task. My wife has a vehicle and I have a vehicle. We can't always car pool and we need to have a truck. I don't want to make 5 trips to pick up brick. That is fine that you do, before I had my truck I did similar things in my Scion, but the convienence is worth the money to me. Your Fit gets 27 - 33 mpg according to Honda's website. I get 22 mpg in my truck so the 5 to 11 mpg savings would not even save me that much. I imagine I wouldn't save money on insurance as both my civic and my tC were more expensive for me to insure than my truck in my area. As other posters have noted, renting a truck can be a hassle. The reason I have been commenting on this thread is because I disagree with the viewpoint, that many people on slashdot have, that anyone who owns a truck or SUV does nothing but commute and would save thousands if they owned a car instead. Nobody ever takes the convience factor into account. Sure you can fit two adults, a baby in a car seat, a stroller, a fold up crib, and bags of toys and diapers in a compact. But it is much less hassle in a truck like mine or, for example, a cx-7 like my wife is looking at. If you also tend to haul stuff that won't fit in the compact or is too heavy then I don't see why some people seem to get so upset when some one goes for a SUV or pickup over a compact.

  • by GreenCow ( 201973 ) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @10:13PM (#29211451) Journal

    I sense that you may have some concern over the implications of this study. If you think these results troubling and wish to discredit them, consider asking for a wider study rather than calling it junk science. Their margin of error may be off, but I doubt it's by a significant enough amount to warrant being labeled 'Junk Science'

  • by cyn1c77 ( 928549 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @12:34AM (#29212371)

    Between Obesity and the loss of food in my kitchen.

    But seriously - this seems like its leading to a "Overweight people aren't smart enough to care about their health" kind of thing.

    Actually, it's leading to a "Overweight people like food and not exercising more than they like their long-term health" kind of thing. This is not exactly new news, but this study is another nail in the coffin... pun intended.

    More than 1 in 3 Americans are currently overweight. If we switch to nationalized health care, you fat fuckers better lose some goddamn weight. Because I don't want my tax dollars paying to treat your preventable illnesses because you felt like super-sizing it 3 nights a week without jogging first.

    Lipitor does not give you the right to continue drinking a gallon of mayonnaise a day.

    Sorry if I sound harsh, but the US is becoming a nation of people with no self-control when it comes to food, money and energy. It's starting to cost us bigtime with all these new socialist (yes, I voted for Obama) government programs getting paid for out of our taxes.

  • Re:Now I get it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Secret Rabbit ( 914973 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @02:52AM (#29212989) Journal

    You seem to be implying that the brain chemistry precedes the obesity. It's actually more than just likely that it's the other way around. History points to that one. Because, this obesity problem is very *very* new and it takes a *long* time for such things to change in such a large number of people. That is, unless you factor in the dietary changes. Hmm. Think that might have something to do with it? You know, the obesity problem linked to peoples diets? There's more than just a correlation there you know.

    But, do you honestly think that a well designed study is going to happen to work that particular point out? Especially, when it's a no brainer? Because, that would entail something like taking a few thousand healthy people and getting them to eat.. a lot. And matching there new diet to the diets of the obese. Then seeing what happens in the brian during the feeding. Not exactly an ethical thing to do given how difficult it is to loose weight and the profound health problems that come with along with being overweight.

    I personally think that these medical people should look up once in a while. You know, to actually think. Then perhaps they'd get rid of there tunnel vision and see a bigger picture.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @03:21AM (#29213163)

    Oh please, there's no way you could have a BMI of 30 and consider yourself healthy. Great way to put yourself on a fast track for diabetes.

    I guess you could be a bodybuilder? Not that I'd consider that particularly healthy either... but not obese. BMI isn't perfect, but it's a very good rule of thumb... and the exceptions aren't that hard to explain. Unless you know that all your weight is muscle, having a high BMI means that you are, indeed, obese.

  • by disputationist ( 1324927 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @03:32AM (#29213223)

    A study, with so much bluster, and they studied just 94 people. Chuck a couple of zeros on that, then perhaps you have the makings of a worthwhile study and not just an anecdote.

    Ugh. Not another math illiterate person complaining about the sample size. For the last time, your intuitive notions of statistics are worthless. The gamer study had a lot of people repeating this stupid objection too.

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright