Weight has long been linked to a wide array of cardiovascular and chronic disease problems. However, a new study published this week in the Neurobiology of Aging has made both the most active health nuts and hesitant newbies want to be extra careful with future diet choices.

The study analyzed digital 3-D brain images taken of 525 participants from ages 20-87 with the goal of comparing white matter, brain thickness and overall surface area. After extensive analysis, the team published their interesting conclusion: the brains of participants with BMI over 30 has a significantly reduced amount of white white matter similar to what would be expected in the brain of someone as much as 10 or 15 years older than the participants current physical age.

Why do we care about white matter?
Both deteriorating and damaged white matter have long been considered red flags for a significantly higher risk of Alzheimers and other serious degenerative brain conditions. And while it is also true that our brains do naturally shrink with age, this is the first study that found weight and BMI may directly lead to the speeding up of this aging and shrinking process.

A simple breakdown of what the findings mean:

The difference in brain-age between those that are lean vs overweight seems to get exponentially greater as participants get older. There is only a 0-5 year difference in brain-age between the 20-year-olds. But that difference grows to 10-15 years by the time the participants reach 50 years old.

To break it down even more simply: this means that while you are technically 50 years old, your brain has aged ahead of you to 60 or 65 years old. And when we’re looking at serious degenerative conditions — that difference is huge.

Need more inspiration to keep up your health conscious lifestyle? Or do you need some convincing to start? Here are some facts on Alzheimer’s and dementia from the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimers is the 6th leading cause of death in the US— 1 in 3 seniors dies with it or another form of dementia.

More than 5 million Americans currently are living with Alzheimer’s.

Every 66 seconds, someone in the US develops the disease.

Neuro-degenerative diseases will cost our country $236 billion in just 2016. 

It kills more people every year than breast and prostate cancer combined.