Being overweight is bad for the brain as well as the heart, say experts who link obesity with declining mental performance.
Obesity can speed up cognitive decline
Scientists led by the French medical research institution INSERM looked at 6,401 British adults between the ages of 35 and 55. Participants took tests on memory and other cognitive skills three times over a ten year period.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, revealed that people who were both obese and who had unhealthy metabolic changes had a much faster decline on their cognitive test scores compared to others in the study. A spokesperson for the Alzheimer's Society said:
“We all know that piling on the pounds is bad for your physical health, but this robust study suggests that it is bad for the head as well as the heart.”
Of the 582 obese people who took part in the study, 60% met the criteria for metabolic abnormality. Metabolic abnormalities were defined as having two or more risk factors, including high blood pressure, low levels of ‘good’ cholesterol and high blood sugar levels.
Over the decade, people who were both obese and metabolically abnormal showed a 22.5% faster decline than people of a normal weight without metabolic abnormalities on their cognitive test scores.
However, even obese people without metabolic abnormalities experienced a more rapid decline.
The experts stress that they only looked at cognitive function, not dementia, and not all impairments leads to the condition.
The authors said: "More research is needed to look at the effects of genetic factors and also to take into account how long people have been obese and how long they have had these metabolic risk factors and also to look at cognitive test scores spanning adulthood to give us a better understanding of the link between obesity and cognitive function, such as thinking, reasoning and memory."
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