Objectives To investigate whether the metabolically important visceral adipose tissue (VAT) relates differently to structural and functional brain changes in comparison with body weight measured as body mass index (BMI). Moreover, we aimed to investigate whether these effects change with age.
Design Cross-sectional, exploratory.
Setting University Clinic, Integrative Research and Treatment Centre.
Participants We included 100 (mean BMI=26.0 kg/m², 42 women) out of 202 volunteers randomly invited by the city's registration office, subdivided into two age groups: young-to-mid-age (n=51, 20–45 years of age, mean BMI=24.9, 24 women) versus old (n=49, 65–70 years of age, mean BMI=27.0, 18 women).
Main outcome measures VAT, BMI, subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue, brain structure (grey matter density), functional brain architecture (eigenvector centrality, EC).
Results We discovered a loss of cerebellar structure with increasing VAT in the younger participants, most significantly in regions involved in motor processing. This negative correlation disappeared in the elderly. Investigating functional brain architecture showed again inverse VAT–cerebellum correlations, whereas now regions involved in cognitive and emotional processing were significant. Although we detected similar results for EC using BMI, significant age interaction for both brain structure and functional architecture was only found using VAT.
Conclusions Visceral adiposity is associated with cerebellar changes of both structure and function, whereas the regions involved contribute to motor, cognitive and emotional processes. Furthermore, these associations seem to be age dependent, with younger adults’ brains being adversely affected.
- Basic Sciences
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