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Obesity, Memory Loss Go Hand-in-Hand, says Study

ObesityObesity is the root cause of many diseases and now researchers have come out with a new finding that it leads to worst memory compared to those who are thin.

A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge found that higher body mass index (BMI) or obesity is linked to “poorer performance” when the target audience was tested on episodic memory. Though the sample is too small, combined with previous studies, they said higher body weight affects both brain structure and the ability to perform cognitive tasks well, and it includes “decision making, problem solving and emotions.”

Around 60% of UK adults are overweight or obese: this number is predicted to rise to approximately 70% by 2034. Obesity increases the risk of physical health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as psychological health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

In the US too, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said 35% of Americans are obese or two-thirds of Americans are obese or overweight and the number is growing posing a big challenge to helathcare professionals.

“Understanding what drives our consumption and how we instinctively regulate our eating behavior is becoming more and more important given the rise of obesity in society,” said Lucy Cheke, team lead. Her team has noticed that episodic memory, reliving a recent event, is another important attribute to obesity.

“How vividly we remember a recent meal, for example today’s lunch, can make a difference to how hungry we feel and how much we are likely to reach out for that tasty chocolate bar later on,” she said.

The participants numbered 50, aged 18 to 35 with varying BMIs and they were given memory test to measure episodic memory and the results showed that the higher the BMI, the lower the scores on the test.

Attributing the cause for low memory among obese people to “structural and functional changes in the brain”, they said it is higher among those who are obese or overweight.

“We’re not saying that overweight people are necessarily more forgetful,” said Cheke. However, the results are generalizable to memory in everyday life, and overweight people are less able to vividly remember the details of past events, including their recent meals. Hence, the researchers link obesity to low memory power among them.

Essentially, overweight makes it difficult to keep track of what you have eaten, possibly making you more likely to overeat, they suggested in their paper published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

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