We’ve all heard that the mind and body share a dual relationship. What affects one has an effect on the other. Perhaps the best example of this, as surprising it may sound, is the effect obesity can have on our minds. Researchers describe obesity as a physical epidemic but it’s been proven to have adverse effects on cognition as well. This is because the excess fat in the body can affect the way the brain functions and change pathways. Here are some ways in which obesity can degrade our cognitive skills.
Ways Obesity Affects The Brain
1. Affects Motor Skills
Obese people seem to have more difficulty coordinating motor skills like walking, running. Obese children, in fact, develop motor skills at a delayed rate as compared to children at a healthy weight. Obesity can affect pathways in the brain which control balance. This affects posture and requires obese people to consciously use their brain in a simple motor skill like running which for other people would be an automatic skill.1
2. May Cause Depression
Studies show that up to 43% of people who are depressed in the United States are obese. Studies show that people who are depressed are more likely to obese than those who are not depressed2 This statistic shows a clear correlation between obesity and depression. It’s a phenomenon that becomes a cause for concern because both of these conditions are associated with other health conditions and both are associated with a high level of mortality.
3. Causes Memory Deficits
Earlier research showed that obesity was definitely correlated with reduced memory in older adults. Now, researchers have now found that this relationship is independent of age. This means that obesity can affect your memory capacity anytime after the age of 21.3
4. Increases Risk Of Dementia
If you were obese in your middle age, chances are you’re more likely to develop disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. These diseases are of course related to other genetic and environmental factors. However, higher levels of fat in your body are a risk factor for developing these diseases.4
5. Mimics Addiction
Obese people are more likely to feel desensitized to pleasure responses in the brain especially to things like sugar. A study conducted found that obese people had a lower pleasure response to drinking a milkshake than those who were at a healthy weight.5 The brain processes observed were the same that cause addicts of heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines to gradually need a higher dose to reach the same high.
The good news about most of these effects is that they are reversible with weight loss. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia may not be reversible but you can reduce your risk of developing them in the first place. You can do it by yourself if you have enough self-control and will power but it’s not a bad idea to have someone accountable. Keep a family member in charge of your diet and exercise regime. If you’re really serious you can enlist the help of a dietician and a personal trainer. You’ll be less likely to falter when you know you’ve people to paid to keep you on track.
|↑1||Wang, Chuanming, John SY Chan, Lijie Ren, and Jin H. Yan. “Obesity reduces cognitive and motor functions across the lifespan.” Neural plasticity 2016 (2016).|
|↑2||Depression and Obesity in the U.S. Adult Household Population. Centers For Disease Prevention And Control|
|↑3||Gunstad, John, R. H. Paul, R. A. Cohen, D. F. Tate, and E. Gordon. “Obesity is associated with memory deficits in young and middle-aged adults.” Eating and Weight Disorders-Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity 11, no. 1 (2006): e15-e19.|
|↑4||Xu, W. L., A. R. Atti, M. Gatz, N. L. Pedersen, B. Johansson, and L. Fratiglioni. “Midlife overweight and obesity increase late-life dementia risk A population-based twin study.” Neurology 76, no. 18 (2011): 1568-1574.|
|↑5||Stice, Eric, Sonja Yokum, Kenneth Blum, and Cara Bohon. “Weight gain is associated with reduced striatal response to palatable food.” Journal of Neuroscience 30, no. 39 (2010): 13105-13109.|