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More Incentive To Reduce: Lose The Pounds, Gain Some Memory And Learning Skills
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More Incentive to Reduce: Lose the Pounds, Gain Some Memory And Learning Skills

John Gunstad, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Kent State University has discovered what he is calling an “interesting” link between losing weight and an increased level of concentration as well as an improved, overall cognitive ability. Science was already aware of the link between obesity and an increased risk for a number of cognitive conditions, including Alzheimer’s Disease, however, this is the first time that weight loss has been linked to an improvement in memory and more.

Gunstad used a group of 150 obese people in his study, some of whom were planning to have gastric bypass surgery and others who were not. He gave the participants a number of tests meant to gauge their cognitive level. His results for that first round of testing showed that across the board, there were some problems both with impaired learning and with poor recognition memory. Recognition memory is the ability to remember things you have encountered in the past, including people and events.

After twelve weeks, Gunstad brought the group back in and had them all retested once again. In the group that had had gastric bypass surgery, the results were all either at normal limits or above average. In the group that did not have bypass surgery, the test results were the same or worse than their baseline.

While the results were encouraging, further testing will have to be done to determine if similar improvements can be made simply by losing twenty to twenty five pounds. For most people who go through gastric bypass surgery, the goal is often to lose one hundred pounds and more. In addition to the improvements with cognitive function, there are typically improvements in heart health as well as a reduced risk of developing diabetes. Those who were already diabetic may actually reverse the condition if they lose enough of their excess weight.

In the journal, Human Brain Mapping, the work of senior author, Paul Thompson, a professor of neurology at UCLA and Cyrus A. Raji, a medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine revealed just how weight affects the human brain. In their study, brains of people who were normal weight, overweight and obese were scanned. The results showed that the overweight people showed an average loss of 4% of their brain tissue while the obese lost twice that amount. What was interesting to the researchers was not only the substantial amount of brain tissue that was lost but the areas that were most greatly affected between the groups. The researchers also showed that the brains of the overweight and obese were on appearance, around sixteen years older than the normal weight brains of their peers.

Researchers may now start working on the reasons why weight affects brain and cognitive function in the first place and may also encourage obese people to take steps to lose weight before the first signs of Alzheimer’ are noticed.


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