Obesity and the Brain

Is there a link between obesity and cognitive functioning?

Though obesity can lead to medical problems including heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea and depression, can it affect cognitive performance as well?    According to a research study  recently published in Neuropsychology, that may actually be the case.    John Gunstad of Kent State University and Kelly M. Stanek of the University of Alabama led a team of researchers examining the interaction of Body Mass Index (BMI) and cognitive functioning across the human lifespan.   Their conclusions have unsettling implications for the current obesity pandemic as well as the disturbing rise in dementia cases among older adults.

Based on previous research, obesity has been linked to increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.  Weight gain has also been linked to long-term decline in cognitive performance even when dementia is not part of the picture.    Even neuroimaging studies of morbidly obese people (BMI greater than 40)  suggest that they are at greater risk for brain atrophy though these results are still controversial for younger age groups.   As people grow older however, they become more vulnerable to brain-related disorders which may make the effect of obesity even more important.

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post. 


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