Obese people are more likely to suffer from impaired brain function which has significant implications for stroke or brain injury recovery, researchers have said.

Teams from the University of South Africa (UniSA) and Deakin University in Australia have carried out a series of experiments and found that overweight people are less likely to be able to remember things or learn new tasks.

The trial involved 30 people aged between 18 and 60. Half were deemed clinically obese and the remaining 15 were of a healthy weight.

In a bid to see how each individual’s brain reacted, a series of electrical stimulation pulses were applied to each person.

Significant neural activity was recorded among those in the healthy-weight group which indicated a normal brain response, but the brain reaction among the obese volunteers was impaired.

Lead researcher, Dr Brenton Hordacre from UniSA, said: “Obesity is already associated with a raft of adverse health effects, including a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders and dementia.

“For the first time, we found that obesity was associated with impaired brain function, adding further support for the need to address the obesity epidemic.

“A growing number of people are obese – 650 million according to the World Health Organization – which not only has health consequences but is a serious financial burden for global health systems.”

The way the brain works and finds new pathways is vital to recovering from a stroke. With the condition being the most common cause of death in Australia and 15 million people suffering a stroke each year around the world, these findings are hugely significant, indicating that a healthy weight is important.

The findings have been published in the Brain Sciences journal.

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