Gain in Adiposity Across 15 Years is Associated With Reduced Gray Matter Volume in Healthy Women

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To test whether current gray matter volume (GMV) covaried with previously obtained longitudinal measures of weight gain—as assessed by increases in body mass index (BMI)—among otherwise healthy postmenopausal women. Cross-sectional results indicate that reduced GMV may be associated with excess body weight.


Demographic, biometric, and behavioral measures were obtained from 48 women as part of the Pittsburgh Healthy Women Study, a longitudinal epidemiological investigation initiated between 1983 and 1984. In 2005 and 2006, these women took part in a brain imaging protocol.


Premenopausal BMI and a priori chosen confounding variables, including the number of years post menopause, an aggregate measure of perceived life stress spanning a 20-year period, resting blood pressure, total cerebral volume, and severity of white matter hyperintensities (a suspected indicator of aging-related silent cerebrovascular disease), explained ∼22% of variance in total GMV. An additional 15% of the variance was uniquely explained by the change in BMI between pre- and postmenopausal longitudinal assessments, such that an increase in BMI predicted a greater reduction in GMV.


An increase in BMI during the menopausal transition and beyond is associated with reduced GMV among otherwise healthy women.

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