Excess body fat reduces mental abilities

Science tightens the already narrow circle around obesity every day. repeat that it is behind major health issues that afflict most countries – diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer – never hurt, and talking about their the economic consequences are enormous (only in Spain they amount to 25 billion euros, and until 2060 they will grow by 211% to reach 2.4% of GDP, according to the calculations of a study by the World Obesity Federation and published in ‘BMJ Global Health’ ) is also necessary. Nothing new so far.

This less known is that excess body or visceral fat decreases cognitive abilities (those that allow us to learn, memorize, speak, understand, etc.) healthy young and mature (but not especially the elderly) and, in addition, it ages the brain. The more fat, the greater the mental deteriorationregardless of school level.

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This is the conclusion reached by a multidisciplinary team of canadian scientists After examining more than 9,000 adults from a mean age 57.8 years (the extremes are 30 and 70 years), who did not have cardiovascular disease and who belonged to different ethnic groups (white European, South Asian, black and indigenous).

In his work, which was published in the magazine ‘Jam Network‘, the authors, led by Sonia Arnal, from the Department of Medicine and Epidemiology at McMaster University (Ontario), started from the postulate that obesity is associated with a state of chronic inflammation, which increases cardiovascular risk. , independent of other factors. They also point out that visceral obesity is associated with a higher risk of myocardial infarction. These differences indicate that both types of fat have distinct metabolic properties and this is important because the loss of mental faculties could be attributed to circulatory problems.

MRI tests and studies

To assess cognitive abilities, they used the DSST test, which takes place in two minutes and which requires participants to associate symbols with numbers according to a code. The test measures the visual and motor speed and coordination, ability to learn, attention, concentration and short-term memory. Scores range from 0 to 133, and the lower the scores, the worse the performance.

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Participants were also tested for Montreal Cognitive Assessment (Moka), which assesses verbal fluency or numeracy, among other abilities, in 10 to 15 minutes. In this, the scores range from 0 to 30, and it is established that 26 corresponds to normal cognitive function.

Finally, MRIs were performed to study the existence of lesions in the brain and the distribution of fat.

What do the results say?

What was expected: that more body fat increases classic cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertension and diabetes. And MRIs have shown that the more body fat, the more more asymptomatic brain damage (which affect cognitive abilities).

A 9.2% increase in body fat or 36 ml of visceral fat equals one year of cognitive aging

What is less known is that an increase of 9.2% in body fat or 36 ml of visceral fat implies a 0.8 reduction in DSST score, which is equivalent to one year of cognitive aging, and for 2 points less, mental aging is 2.8 years. The result was the same in the Montreal test.

The Canadian scientists admit their work isn’t the only one addressing the relationship between body and visceral fat and mental abilities. A previous study links higher amounts of visceral fat to mental decline, a relationship that did not find for body fat.

There is also data that proves that the kids lose weight (visceral fat) improve their mental abilities (this is relevant, as childhood obesity is a growing problem worldwide).

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The most recent is the analysis based on data from 15,000 attendees in the UK Biobank and found that the association between adiposity and reduced cognitive function responds to traditional cardiovascular risk factors and inflammatory markers. In addition, he determines that greater inflammation is associated with spatial reasoning, short-term memoryverbal competence, learning and memory more deficientas well as changes in brain structure (less gray and white matter in areas related to mental abilities, such as seahorse).

Despite the comprehensiveness of the book, Canadians insist (as almost always happens in science) on the need to do more studies and clinical trials To determine the ways in which high levels of adiposity lower cognitive scoresregardless of its effect on other cardiovascular risk factors.

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