Losing extra weight helps memory
Thu, 14 Apr 2011 12:30:36 GMT
Weight loss may lower the overweight and obese people's greater risk for memory problems and other cognitive disabilities, a study shows.
The study of 150 overweight and obese people, including 109 bariatric surgery patients and 41 obese control subjects, showed that weight loss considerably improves brain health and memory.
The participants weighed an average of 300 pounds (136 kilograms) at the beginning of the research and many of them were suffering from several health conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea.
The findings showed that the surgery patients, who had lost an average 50 pounds (22.7 kilograms), showed improvement in multiple cognitive abilities, including memory and executive functioning, which includes organization skills.
However, the morbidly obese patients, whose weight stayed the same, showed a mild decline in memory during the tests, researchers wrote in the journal Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases.
“The primary motivation for looking at surgery patients is that we know they lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time, so it was a good group to study,” said lead author John Gunstad from Kent State University, the US.
“This is the first evidence to show that by going through this surgery, individuals might improve their memory, concentration and problem solving,” he added.
"A lot of the factors that come with obesity - things such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea - that might damage the brain are somewhat reversible," Gunstad said. "As those problems go away, memory function gets better."
However, the researchers believe that the improved memory for the surgery patients were not solely due to lower blood pressure, because many of those with hypertension did not show a normal blood pressure and complete relief of the condition after surgery.
It appears that there was another physiological process causing memory improvements, said Gunstad.
"We've known for a while that diet and exercise may also improve cognition, so it's possible there are several factors that are causing these changes."
It's important to emphasize not just losing weight but also adopting a healthy lifestyle, said Michael Devlin, the study's co-author from Columbia University.
The researchers are planning to examine whether people who experience behavioral weight loss experience the same effects as those who have had bariatric surgery, said Gunstad, adding that see similar results are expected.
"One of the things we know is that as individuals become more cardiovascular fit and their heart health gets better, their brain health also improves," he said.
"Even if we take young adults and put them through an exercise program, their memory and their concentration get better by the end of the program."