Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Can Obesity Steal Your Smarts?

Older women hoping to keep their minds young should keep an eye on the scale—researchers have found a link between slowing down mentally and piling on the pounds.

For every extra point gained on a scale of obesity, scores in reasoning, memory and other mental skills fell, Dr. Diana Kerwin of Northwestern University in Chicago and colleagues found.

"What we found is that actually obesity in and of itself is an independent risk factor for declining cognitive performance," Kerwin said in a telephone interview.

She used data from the Women's Health Initiative, an ongoing national study of illness and death among older American women. She compared women's body mass index, or BMI, a measure of obesity commonly used by doctors and researchers, to their results on a test that measured their mental sharpness.

The test evaluated the memory, abstract reasoning, writing, and temporal and spatial orientation skills of the group of women ages 65 to 79. Among the 8,745 post-menopausal women who completed the test, for each point increase in the BMI scale, scores on the mental test went down by one point, Kerwin's team reported in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society. Read more here.

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