Obesity and the Acceleration of Cognitive Decline

My Bariatric Life Health Guide

  • The writing on the wall has just grown a bit larger. In general, we tend to ignore admonitions and warnings until we have reached a sort of critical mass. Neck deep and sinking fast is often the point at which we are ready to listen to the speaker instead of just hear his voice. And the speaker is at it again.

    The health risks associated with being overweight or obese have been catalogued for quite some time. Those excess pounds that are being carried by more and more Americans with every passing day can lead to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and certain types of cancer. This is hardly breakthrough information. It is the syndrome of warning presented to us with such frequency that we have become numb to it. You know, neck deep and sinking fast. Well, the writer who commands the wall has just added another bit of warning:

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    Those who are obese in middle age and have other metabolic risk factors such as high blood pressure can accelerate cognitive decline.

     

    In other words, more cake equals less brain power.


     

     

    Obesity and Cognitive Decline

    The results of a study involving 6401 participants who were monitored over a ten year period were recently published in the journal Neurology. Fifty-three percent of those tested were normal weight, thirty-eight percent were overweight, and nine percent were obese. Thirty-one percent had metabolic risk factors.

    The study participants were tested three times over the course of a decade to assess their cognitive functioning. The tests measured reasoning, short term memory, and verbal fluency.

     

    Subjects who were obese and had two or more risk factors suffered cognitive decline that was 22.5% faster than normal weight participants.

    The study also challenges the current mindset that obese people can navigate away from poor health if they are metabolically fit. This emergent contention did not fare well whereas those participants who were obese and metabolically healthy still had poor cognitive results.

     

    The Connection Between Obesity and Cognition

    Now that a connection has been established between obesity and cognitive decline, the explanation as to why remains pending. At this point in time, researchers cannot be sure, although it is suspected that heart disease and inflammation are involved.

    Elevated blood-sugar levels and blood pressure can effect blood vessels and  the brain. Fat tissue can cause hormonal changes that also effect the brain. Lifestyle factors that contribute to obesity such as lack of exercise or smoking may play a role.



    Aerobic Exercise

    Aerobic exercise seems to play a useful role in lowering the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

    Exercise promotes new nerve cell generation that helps to improve cognition. Exercise is the strongest stimulus for this cell generation or neurogenesis. A good amount of neurogenesis occurs in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is important for learning and memory. Hippocampus cell generation is the most consistent effect produced by exercise.


  • Aerobic exercise also helps to produce new blood vessels in the brain that improve brain circulation.

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    Living life well-fed,

    MBL


    References:
    The Wall Street Journal - http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443989204577601343061867240.html
    University of New Mexico - http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/brainandex.html

     
Published On: November 12, 2012