What is your motivation for losing weight? For many of us, one of the most convincing arguments for keeping body fat percentages low is risk of disease. Sure, there are other reasons to lose weight as well. But have you ever considered how your weight affects your mental capacity? There is significant research that argues excess levels of fat tissue in the body (also known as adiposity) create higher risk of heart disease. But recent research suggests that maybe risk of chronic diseases shouldn’t be the only reason you should maintain a healthy body fat percentage. A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association focused on how excessive fatty tissue in the body can also affect one’s cognitive function.
Investigators studied over 9,000 adults, ages 30-75 who had no heart disease. These participants were given the Digital Symbol Substitution Test to assess their cognitive function. After the participant pool was also adjusted for cardiovascular risk factors, educational level, and vascular brain injury, investigators still found that excess body fat lowered cognitive performance. In other words, when all other variables were removed, those who had healthy levels of body fat experienced better cognitive performance. Participants were not less educated, and they had healthy brain activity.
In fact, depending on the body fat ratio, participants who had excess body fat experienced cognitive aging of between 1-3 years. For those who may be genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s or dementia, this study adds another helpful goal for staying sharp as one ages.
But do you feel like you struggle with attention or memory loss, have you considered how your body fat might be affecting your mental productivity? Obesity can affect a number of processes in the body – your sleep, your immunity, etc. All of these physiological mechanisms can impact brain function.
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