The influence of Body Mass Index (BMI) on neurodegeneration in dementia has yet to be elucidated. We aimed at exploring the effects of BMI levels on cerebral resting-state metabolism and brain connectivity, as crucial measures of synaptic function and activity, in a large group of patients with Alzheimer’s Dementia (AD) (n = 206), considering gender. We tested the correlation between BMI levels and brain metabolism, as assessed by 18F-FDG-PET, and the modulation of the resting-state functional networks by BMI. At comparable dementia severity, females with high BMI can withstand a lower degree of brain metabolism dysfunction, as shown by a significant BMI-brain metabolism correlation in the temporal-parietal regions, which are typically vulnerable to AD pathology (R = 0.269, p = 0.009). Of note, high BMI was also associated with reduced connectivity in frontal and limbic brain networks, again only in AD females (p < 0.05 FDR-corrected, k = 100 voxels). This suggests a major vulnerability of neural systems known to be selectively involved in brain compensatory mechanisms in AD females. These findings indicate a strong gender effect of high BMI and obesity in AD, namely reducing the available reserve mechanisms in female patients. This brings to considerations for medical practice and health policy.
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