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Association of body mass index, and waist to hip ratio with brain structure

journal contribution
posted on 12.10.2018, 14:05 by Mark Hamer, G. David Batty
Objective: We examined the association of body mass index (BMI) and waist to hip ratio (WHR) with brain volume. Methods: We used cross-sectional data from UK Biobank study (n=9,652 ; aged 55.4±7.5 yrs; 47.9% men). Measures included BMI, WHR, and total fat mass as ascertained from bioimpedance. Brain images were produced using structural magnetic resonance imaging. Results: After adjustment for a range of covariates, higher levels of all obesity measures were related to lower grey matter volume: BMI per SD (beta coefficient=-4113; 95% confidence interval: -4862, -3364), WHR (-4272; -5280, -3264), fat mass (-4590; -5386, -3793). The combination of overall obesity (BMI≥30 kg/m2 ) and central obesity (WHR>0.85 women; >0.90 men) was associated with the lowest grey matter compared with lean adults. In hypothesis-free testing with a Bonferroni correction, obesity was also related to various regional brain volumes including Caudate, Putamen, Pallidum, and Nucelus Accumbens. No associations between obesity and white matter were apparent. Conclusion: The combination of heightened BMI and WHR may be an important risk factor for grey matter atrophy.


This research has been conducted using the UK Biobank Resource under Application Number 23476. MH acknowledges support from the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre. GDB is supported by the UK Medical Research Council (MR/P023444/1) and the US National Institute on Aging (1R56AG052519-01; 1R01AG052519-01A1).



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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HAMER, M. and BATTY, G.D., 2018. Association of body mass index, and waist to hip ratio with brain structure. Neurology, 92 (6), e594-600.


© American Academy of Neurology


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