Excess bodyweight not only creates physical health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease, but it increases the risk of psychological health problems, such as depression and anxiety, a new study has found.
Researchers in the United Kingdom have found a link between overweight and poorer memory. Overweight young adults may have poorer episodic memory, which can be defined as an ability to recall past events, according to the study conducted by the University of Cambridge.
The study, published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, tested 50 participants aged 18-35, with body mass indexes (BMIs) ranging from 18 through to 51.
Researchers found a link between high body mass index (BMI) and poorer performance on a test of episodic memory. The participants were given a memory test, where they were asked to hide items around complex scenes across two ‘days’. They were then asked to remember which items they had hidden, where they had hidden them, and when they were hidden.
Excess bodyweight may be associated with changes to the structure and function of the brain and its ability to perform certain cognitive tasks optimally.
“In particular, obesity has been linked with dysfunction of the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in memory and learning, and of the frontal lobe, the part of the brain involved in decision making, problem solving and emotions, suggesting that it might also affect memory; however, evidence for memory impairment in obesity is currently limited,” according to a statement by the University of Cambridge.
Obesity is a growing problem around the world. In UK, around 60% of adults are overweight or obese. This number is likely to grow to approximately 70% by 2034.
Researchers noted that further research is necessary to establish whether the results of this study can be generalized to overweight individuals in general, and to episodic memory in everyday life rather than in experimental conditions.
The study was funded by the Medical Research Council and Girton College, University of Cambridge, and the James S McDonnell Foundation.