Overweight and obesity associated with memory loss
Overweight adults have a reduced ability to recall past memories. This is the conclusion from a study conducted at the University of Cambridge. This small study supports previous evidence that overweight and obesity can cause changes in the structure and function of the brain. Recently obesity has been linked with altered functioning of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is involved in the formation of memories and learning, whilst also affecting the frontal lobe, which is associated with decision making and emotions. Recalling past events is known as episodic memory, and the research group wanted to further understand obesity’s role in this function.
50 participants aged between 18-35, with BMI range of 18-51, took part in an exercise known as the ‘Treasure-Hunt Task’. This is where participants are asked to mentally ‘hide’ things around a complex scene across 2 days, they were then asked to find these things. An association between higher BMI and poorer performance on the tasks was found. The researchers did concede that the study was small and that further research is required to fully establish a link between obesity and memory loss. Furthermore, they are eager to explore the effects of memory recall of certain meals, as dysfunction here may lead to problems in regulating consumption of certain foods. This would mean that it could be harder to keep track of what an individual has eaten, possibly leading to over eating.