SCIENCE

Researchers Link Obesity To Memory Problems

  • Mary Nichols , Design & Trend Contributor
  • Feb, 29, 2016, 04:34 AM
Tags : science
Obesity Linked To Poor Memory
(Photo : Getty Images/Justin Sullivan) Obesity could do more than affect waistlines - it could also change the brain, harming memory.

Obesity could do more than affect waistlines - it could also change the brain, harming memory.

A new study suggests that these chemical changes in the brain could influence eating habits - leading to further weight gain, writes UPI.com.

While the link between weight and dysfunction in certain areas of the brain is not new, a small study has found that participants with higher body mass indexes (BMI) displayed poorer episodic memory when compared to those within a healthy BMI range.

The researchers are not necessarily suggesting that obese people are more forgetful, however they do suggest that misleading memories regarding their previous meals could have an effect on eating habits, causing some to overeat.

According to researchers, the theory was based on the findings of prior studies that suggest obesity has a negative effect on the hippocampus - the region of the brain involved in memory and learning. Prior studies also suggest that obesity also adversely affects the frontal lobe, which is the region of the brain associated with decision-making, problem solving and emotions. However, there is little existing evidence to suggest that obesity has a negative effect on memory.

"It is possible that becoming overweight may make it harder to keep track of what and how much you have eaten, potentially making you more likely to overeat," Dr. Lucy Cheke, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, said in a press release. "The possibility that there may be episodic memory deficits in overweight individuals is of concern, especially given the growing evidence that episodic memory may have a considerable influence on feeding behavior and appetite regulation."

In the study, 50 participants between the ages of 18 and 35 and with a BMI between 18 and 51 were recruited for episodic memory testing. Of the participants, 26 had a BMI less than 25, while 24 had a BMI above 25 - which is classed as either overweight or obese. BMI measurements over 30 are classes as obese.

Each of the participants in the study was asked to complete a computerized treasure hunt. Firstly they were asked to hide a number of items and in the following days were asked to recall where they hid each of the items and when.

The researchers found that participants with a higher BMI performed poorly in the treasure hunt task, but as difficulty increased - did not perform worse. Factors including age, years in education and gender did not predict the variances in performance, but could have some link when considered alongside BMI, the researchers reported.

"Increasingly, we're beginning to see that memory -- especially episodic memory, the kind where you mentally relive a past event -- is also important," Cheke said in a press release. "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."

The study was published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

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