We already know that being overweight has a negative effect on several health factors such as blood sugar, sleep, cardiovascular health, etc. but that’s not all. It also decreases our short-term memory. A study from the University of Cambridge demonstrates the negative impact of obesity on brain structures and function.
Previous work has already partially highlighted structural changes in the brain in overweight individuals. These changes are measured in the hippocampus, a region involved in memory and learning, as well as the frontal lobe, which processes decision making, emotions and problem solving. However, the evidence on this subject is still limited to date, even if the influence of memory in food intake is better and better documented.
Subjects yet young with a simple exercise
These British researchers evaluated the memory performance of 50 subjects aged 18 to 35, with BMIs ranging from 18 to 51. The volunteers had to participate in a memory test called “Treasure Hunt”. This consisted of hiding objects for 2 days in relatively complex places recreated by computer. They were then asked questions about the number and type of objects, their hiding place and when they had been “deposited”.
The results show a significant association between BMI and poor performance for the required tasks. For the study authors, they could suggest that the previously observed structural and functional changes are accompanied by a reduced ability to form and retrieve episodic memories. The fact that this phenomenon is already occurring in young individuals also underlines that the cognitive disorders linked to obesity manifest themselves early.
Cheke & Al. Higher BMI is Associated with Episodic Memory Deficits in Young Adults. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology; 22 Feb 2016. 10.1080/17470218.2015.1099163