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Older Women Who Lose Weight May Gain Memory Capacity

Oct. 29, 2013|528 views
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A surprising new study suggests that when older women who are overweight lose excess weight through dieting, they gain some mental agility and memory-retrieval capacity. Scientists have known for some time that being obese affects the structure of the brain. In fact, studies have shown that obesity actually appears to shrink the brain.


Imaging studies have shown, for instance, that compared to normal weight people, the brains of obese subjects contain significantly less gray matter. Abdominal obesity in particular was recently linked to less-dense gray matter in the brain. It’s also known that obese people often struggle with “episodic memory,” the type of memory that allows us to remember the events of our daily lives.


At a recent meeting of the Endocrine Society, lead author Dr. Andreas Pettersson presented the results of research conducted in Sweden on a group of overweight, post-menopausal women. The women were assigned to strict diets, and lost an average of about 18 pounds after six months. Using real-time imaging (fMRI), his team showed how subjects’ brains worked when presented with a memory retrieval task. Memory performance improved after weight loss, and brain activity in regions of the brain involved in memory formation and retrieval increased. “Our findings suggest that obesity-associated impairments in memory function are reversible, adding incentive for weight loss,” said Andreas Pettersson, MD.



Endocrine Society (2013, June 17). Weight loss improves memory and alters brain activity in overweight women. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 25, 2013, from­ /releases/2013/06/130617110937.htm


Karlsson HK, Tuulari JJ, Hirvonen J, Lepomäki V, Parkkola R, Hiltunen J, et al. Obesity is associated with white matter atrophy: A combined diffusion tensor imaging and voxel-based morphometric study. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Mar 20. doi: 10.1002/oby.20386. [Epub ahead of print]


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