While most of us are aware of the ways obesity can affect our bodies, we’re less familiar with the ways unhealthy weight can affect our brains. According to a recent study published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, being extremely overweight isn’t just linked to physical ailments like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease—it can also have a negative impact on our memory.
The study of 50 people between 18 and 35 years old found that participants with high body mass indexes (BMIs) performed worse on a memory test than those with lower BMIs. According to The Guardian, researchers created a computerized test called the “Treasure Hunt Task,” which asked volunteers to move food items around complex scenes, and hide different foods in different locations. After completing the test, participants were asked to recall where they hid different foods, as well as what order they hid them in. Researchers called this a “what-where-when” test.
The study found that volunteers with high BMIs struggled to “bind” the different parts of the test—which foods they hid (“what”), location information (“where”), and order of events (“when”)—into coherent memories.
Researchers note that while the study indicates a link between obesity and memory problems, the exact factors at play are still unclear, and a more comprehensive study is still needed. For example, the study didn’t consider the effects of other health issues linked to obesity that could also affect memory, such as sleep apnea. However, researchers believe memory problems may add to the tendency to overeat and play an important role in the regulation of food consumption. They write: “This finding of episodic memory deficits in obesity is of concern given the emerging evidence for a role for episodic cognition in appetite regulation.”
[h/t The Guardian]