Obesity Linked to Cognitive Decline

We are all aware of the myriad of health risks associated with obesity: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, to name a few.

But a new study conducted by the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami shows a link between a higher than normal BMI (Body Mass Index) and the rate of cognitive decline as we age.

Study Details

The authors of the study gathered over 1,200 participants with an average age of 64 and divided them into three categories: those with a BMI lower than 25 (healthy weight), those with a BMI of 25-30 (overweight) and those with a BMI above 30.

Additionally, they measured the participants’ waistlines, and gave them baseline MRIs for comparative analysis After an average of about 6 years, they began their follow up study.

The results are enlightening: over the course of ten years, those who were overweight showed cortical thinning of .098 mm for each BMI unit over 25, while those who were obese showed thinning of .207 mm for each additional BMI unit.

Thinning of the cerebral cortex can cause a reduction in brain mass, which ultimately may lead to symptoms of dementia.

Research Conclusions

After factoring in lifestyle issues such as excessive alcohol use, smoking and high blood pressure, researchers concluded that being overweight/obese could age the brain by up to ten years.

Dr. Tatjana Rundek, co-author of the study emphasized that although the research shows a definitive link between obesity and cortical thinning, they have yet to determine if the link is actually causal.

Some of the warning signs of dementia include:

  • Memory problems, especially those related to recent events
  • Increased confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Problems performing everyday tasks
  • Changes in personality/behavior

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