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?