The physical benefits of weight loss include decreased blood pressure, improved circulatory system and increased cardiac health. But a new study shows that losing excess weight may also improve concentration and cognitive abilities including memory. John Gunstad, an Assistant Professor of psychology at Kent State University and lead author of the study, said, “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.” Gunstad went on to discuss the motivation for the study. “If excess weight causes these problems, can losing weight help reverse them? That’s what we wanted to research.”
The study involved performing gastric bypass surgery on one group of obese subjects and comparing their cognitive skills to another group that had not had the surgery. The first group lost an average of 50 pounds after twelve weeks, and then tested at normal or above normal levels for concentration and memory. There was no noticeable improvement in cognitive ability in the group that did not lose any weight. In addition, the findings showed a slight decrease in mental acuity in those same people over the three month period.
Experts know that maintaining a healthy weight can protect people from developing other issues including depression, loss of self-esteem, and anxiety. But these new findings gave evidence to the fact that even those who are heavy have a chance to reverse adverse conditions. The researchers believe that these findings warrant further studies to determine if these same results can be achieved without surgery, but rather by using non-invasive methods including exercise and proper nutrition. “If we can improve the condition with surgery, then we can see if we can produce the same change with behavioral weight loss as well,” they said.
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