Mechanisms linking obesity and its metabolic comorbidities with cerebral grey and white matter changes

Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2022 Aug;23(4):833-843. doi: 10.1007/s11154-021-09706-5. Epub 2022 Jan 21.


Obesity is a preventable risk factor for cerebrovascular disorders and it is associated with cerebral grey and white matter changes. Specifically, individuals with obesity show diminished grey matter volume and thickness, which seems to be more prominent among fronto-temporal regions in the brain. At the same time, obesity is associated with lower microstructural white matter integrity, and it has been found to precede increases in white matter hyperintensity load. To date, however, it is unclear whether these findings can be attributed solely to obesity or whether they are a consequence of cardiometabolic complications that often co-exist with obesity, such as low-grade systemic inflammation, hypertension, insulin resistance, or dyslipidemia. In this narrative review we aim to provide a comprehensive overview of the potential impact of obesity and a number of its cardiometabolic consequences on brain integrity, both separately and in synergy with each other. We also identify current gaps in knowledge and outline recommendations for future research.

Keywords: Adiposity; Body mass index; MRI; Metabolic; Neuroanatomical; Vascular factors.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Cardiovascular Diseases*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • White Matter*