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Increased body fat leads to decline in cognitive function, fascinating new study

A new study has found that the more body fat you have, the more likely you are to suffer from reduced cognitive function.

Even when the researchers took into account cardiovascular risk factors like diabetes or high blood pressure or vascular brain injury, the link between body fat and lower cognitive scores remained.

We already know myriad ways in which being overweight is bad for you, but this new study throws into sharp relief the wisdom of the ancients when they said, “mens sana in corpore sano” – a healthy mind in a healthy body.

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More body fat, lower cognitive function

In the study, just over 9000 participants had their body fat measured using bioelectrical impedance analysis.

Nearly 7000 of the participants then underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure levels of abdominal fat packed around the organs known as visceral fat. The MRI also assessed areas in the brain affected by reduced blood flow to the brain, otherwise known as vascular brain injury.

Cognitive function was assessed using the Digital Symbol Substitution Test (DSST; scores range from 0 to 133, with lower scores indicating lower cognitive function) and Montreal Cognitive Assessment (scores range from 0 to 30, with a score of ≥26 denoting normal cognitive function). 

The results clearly showed a link between levels of body fat and lower cognitive scores.

The participants, who all lived in either Canada or Poland, were aged between 30 and 75, with an average age of around 58. Just over half were women;. The majority were of white European origin, with about 16% from other ethnic backgrounds. Individuals with known cardiovascular disease were excluded.

Want to be healthier in 2022? Eat at home more

eat at home


A new study reveals that those who cook their own food at home have a healthier diet than those who don’t.

Researchers from the University of Washington interviewed 437 residents of nearby King County and had them complete a questionnaire detailing their eating experiences. They compared this data to a metric devised by the USDA called the Healthy Eating Index.

The index, which evaluates adherence to federal guidelines set for a healthy diet, is weighted on a 100-point scale.

The study shows that those who cooked at home roughly three times a week had an index score of 67., whereas those who doubled the number of times they cooked at home had a score of 74. 

Home-cooked meals means families enjoying diets lower in calories, sugar, and fat, at no extra cost to the monthly food budget.

Click here to read more about this study and learn how you can improve your diet at home

“Our results suggest that strategies to prevent or reduce having too much body fat may preserve cognitive function,” said lead author Sonia Anand, a professor of medicine of McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and a vascular medicine specialist at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS).

She added that “the effect of increased body fat persisted even after adjusting for its effect on increasing cardiovascular risk factors like diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as vascular brain injury, which should prompt researchers to investigate which other pathways may link excess fat to reduced cognitive function.”

Co-author Eric Smith, a neurologist, scientist and an associate professor of clinical neurosciences at the University of Calgary, said that “preserving cognitive function is one of the best ways to prevent dementia in old age. This study suggests that one of the ways that good nutrition and physical activity prevent dementia may be by maintaining healthy weight and body fat percentage.”

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