A new study shows that there is a link between weight loss, and improved memory in patients. The study was led by John Gunstad, assistant professor of psychology at Kent State University and focused on roughly 150 overweight patients.
For the study the team split the patients into two groups, with one group receiving gastric bypass surgery, while the other group did not. Thereafter the participant’s cognitive abilities, focusing on their memory as well as ability to concentrate, their attention-span were tested. This was done before and after surgery.
Results showed that 12-weeks after the surgery, those who went through the gastric bypass surgery and lost weight performed far higher on these same cognitive tests. “They were able to show improvements moving from the kind of mildly impaired range into the normal range, which clinically is a pretty good, is a pretty meaningful change, said Gunstad. Prior to surgery, 23.9 percent of all the participants showed impaired learning and 22.9 percent had poor recognition memory.
“We've known for a long time that obesity is a risk factor for things like Alzheimer's disease and stroke, and more recent work really shows that obesity is a link to memory problems and concentration problems before that even begins,” said Gunstad. “If excess weight causes these problems, can losing weight help reverse them? That's what we wanted to research.”
Gunstad continued that there are areas that are still unclear. This includes questions like what from obesity is causing the brain damage and what causes the brain to improve after surgery. It remains to be seen if behavioral weight loss produces the same changes in the brain as surgery he added. “If we're able to identify what causes these memory problems in the first place and then changes after surgery to make the memory better, that's the key,” said Gunstad. “Once we can find that, that might be an answer to what better understands how obesity's linked to Alzheimer's disease, stroke or even just memory decline that happens in older adults.”
“I think one of the important take-home messages for this study is really just, kind of, a reminder for individuals that if you take care of your body, you're also taking care of your brain,” he concluded.