Obesity Linked to Impaired Memory
There seems to be no end to the dangerous health consequences of being overweight.
As if high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, gout and some forms of cancer were not enough -- obesity may have neurological consequences associated with reduced function in certain parts of the brain.
A study from University of Cambridge found the effects in the frontal lobes specifically -- which are the seat of intelligence -- and the hippocampus, which is critical for memory formation.
The study team looked at 50 volunteers aged 18 to 35, with Body Mass Indexes (BMIs) ranging from 18 (underweight) to 51 (extremely obese). They were asked to perform a computerized memory test which involved moving food items around complex scenes, like a desert with palm trees -- hiding them in various locations, and indicating afterwards where they had hidden them.
Participants with higher BMI performed significantly worse on the tests, apparently because of an impaired ability to bind the different elements of the task -- such as spatial location and the identity of the objects -- into coherent and vivid memories. Earlier studies on both animals and humans show that obesity has a significant impact on brain structure and function.
This new study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that the mental deficits associated with obesity are present early in life. The researchers did include a caveat to their study. It did not take conditions like hypertension and sleep apnea into account -- both of which usually occur with obesity, and are also known to impact mental function.