Obesity-related neurodegeneration mimics Alzheimer’s disease

Overview: Researchers discovered a correlation between obesity-related neurodegeneration and the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease. Losing weight, they say, can slow age-related cognitive decline and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Source: McGill University

A new study led by scientists at McGill University’s The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) finds a correlation between neurodegeneration in obese people and patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). ADVERTISEMENT.

Previous research has shown that obesity is associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD)-related changes, such as cerebrovascular damage and amyloid-β accumulation. However, to date, no study has made a direct comparison between patterns of brain atrophy in AD and obesity.

Using a sample of more than 1,300 individuals, the researchers compared patterns of gray matter atrophy in obesity and AD. They compared the AD patients to healthy controls, and obese to non-obese individuals, and created maps of gray matter atrophy for each group.

The scientists found that obesity and AD affected gray matter dilution in the cortex in similar ways. For example, the thinning of the right temporo-parietal cortex and left prefrontal cortex was similar in both groups. Cortical thinning can be a sign of neurodegeneration. This suggests that obesity may cause the same type of neurodegeneration seen in people with AD.

Here you can see brain scans from the research
A comparison of cortical thickness between the brains of obese patients and those with Alzheimer’s disease. Darker colors indicate similarities in cortical thickness between the two groups. Credits: Filip Morys

Obesity is increasingly recognized as a multisystem disease affecting the respiratory, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems, among others. Published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease on January 31, 2022, this study also helps reveal a neurological impact, showing that obesity may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“Our study reinforces previous literature pointing to obesity as an important factor in AD by showing that cortical thinning may be one of the potential risk mechanisms,” said Filip Morys, a PhD researcher at The Neuro and the study’s first author. . “Our results highlight the importance of reducing weight in obese and overweight people in middle age to reduce the subsequent risk of neurodegeneration and dementia.”

financing: This study was funded by a Foundation Scheme award for AD from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, computing resources from Calcul Quebec and Compute Canada, and by a postdoctoral fellowship from Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Santé.

About this news about obesity and Alzheimer’s disease

Writer: Shawn Hayward
Source: McGill University
Contact: Shawn Hayward – McGill University
Image: The statue is attributed to Filip Morys

Original research: Open access.
“Obesity-associated neurodegeneration pattern mimics Alzheimer’s disease in an observational cohort study” by Filip Morys et al. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease


Also see

This shows an alarm clock

Obesity-associated neurodegeneration pattern mimics Alzheimer’s disease in an observational cohort study


Being overweight in adulthood leads to health complications such as diabetes, hypertension or dyslipidemia. Recently, being overweight has also been linked to brain atrophy and cognitive decline. Reports show that obesity is linked to changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), such as cerebrovascular damage or accumulation of amyloid-β. However, to date, no study has made a direct comparison between patterns of brain atrophy in AD and obesity.


Here, we compared patterns of brain atrophy and amyloid-β/tau protein accumulation in obesity and AD using a sample of over 1,300 individuals from four groups: AD patients, healthy controls, obese otherwise healthy individuals, and lean individuals.


We age- and sex-matched all groups to the AD patient group and created cortical thickness maps of AD and obesity. This was done by comparing AD patients with healthy controls, and obese individuals with lean individuals. We then compared the AD and obesity maps using correlation analyzes and permutation-based tests responsible for spatial autocorrelation. Similarly, we compared brain maps for obesity with amyloid-β and tau protein maps from other studies.


Obesity maps were highly correlated with AD maps, but were not correlated with amyloid-β/tau protein maps. This effect was not explained by the presence of obesity in the AD group.


Our study confirms that obesity-related gray matter atrophy resembles that of AD. Controlling excess weight can lead to better health outcomes, slow the cognitive decline associated with aging and lower the risk of AD.

Leave a Comment