Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

There is an intimate body-brain connection in ageing, and obesity is a key risk factor for poor cardiometabolic health and neurodegenerative conditions. Although research has demonstrated deleterious effects of obesity on brain structure and function, the majority of studies have used conventional measures such as waist-to-hip ratio, waist circumference, and body mass index. While sensitive to gross features of body composition, such global anthropometric features fail to describe regional differences in body fat distribution and composition. The sample consisted of baseline brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) acquired from 790 healthy participants aged 18–94 years (mean ± standard deviation (SD) at baseline: 46.8 ± 16.3), and follow-up brain MRI collected from 272 of those individuals (two time-points with 19.7 months interval, on average (min = 9.8, max = 35.6). Of the 790 included participants, cross-sectional body MRI data was available from a subgroup of 286 participants, with age range 19–86 (mean = 57.6, SD = 15.6). Adopting a mixed cross-sectional and longitudinal design, we investigated cross-sectional body magnetic resonance imaging measures of adipose tissue distribution in relation to longitudinal brain structure using MRI-based morphometry (T1) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). We estimated tissue-specific brain age at two time points and performed Bayesian multilevel modelling to investigate the associations between adipose measures at follow-up and brain age gap (BAG) – the difference between actual age and the prediction of the brain's biological age – at baseline and follow-up. We also tested for interactions between BAG and both time and age on each adipose measure. The results showed credible associations between T1-based BAG and liver fat, muscle fat infiltration (MFI), and weight-to-muscle ratio (WMR), indicating older-appearing brains in people with higher measures of adipose tissue. Longitudinal evidence supported interaction effects between time and MFI and WMR on T1-based BAG, indicating accelerated ageing over the course of the study period in people with higher measures of adipose tissue. The results show that specific measures of fat distribution are associated with brain ageing and that different compartments of adipose tissue may be differentially linked with increased brain ageing, with potential to identify key processes involved in age-related transdiagnostic disease processes.

Original publication




Journal article


NeuroImage: Clinical

Publication Date