Obesity may be linked to memory loss and thinking problems, according to a new study.
The research, conducted at the Australian National University in Canberra, provides further evidence of the health risks associated with obesity. There are already strong links between being highly overweight and having type 2 diabetes, and this research suggests that there may be mental as well as physical risks associated with obesity.
The study followed 420 patients over an eight-year period. At the beginning of the study, the patients were all aged 60-64, and were deemed cognitively healthy. Body mass index (BMI) was measured three times: once at the beginning of the study, once after four years, and once after eight years.
The researchers discovered that having a higher BMI was linked to having a smaller hippocampus, which is a part of the brain important for learning and memory.
Dr. Doug Brow, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society, explained: “Although this study didn’t look directly at dementia in these participants, the hippocampus is an important area of the brain and one of the first areas to be affected by dementia.
“We know that obesity in mid-life is a risk factor for later dementia, so it’s concerning to see it possible having a direct effect on the brain later in life too…The best way to reduce the risk of developing dementia is to eat a healthy diet, take regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight and not smoke.”
In addition to these cognitive problems, obesity is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. Treatment usually begins with increasing levels of exercise and adopting a healthier diet.

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