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Weight gain hurts memory, research says

Need another reason to avoid gaining weight? Well, new research has found that the more an older woman weighs, the worse her memory.

Diana Kerwin of Northwestern University and colleagues studied 8,745 normal post-menopausal women ages 65 to 79 who participated in the Women's Health Initiative, a massive federal study examining a host of health issues.

For every one-point increase in a woman's body mass index (BMI), her score on a 100-point memory test dropped by one point, the researchers reported last week in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

But here's the really interesting part. Where a woman put on the pounds may be key, the researchers found. Women who are shaped more like pears -- meaning they gained weight in their hips -- tend to experience more memory problems than those shaped like apples because they put on the pounds around their waist. Unfortunately, as we all know, the hips are where women tend to gain weight.

The findings may help explain why previous studies that have looked at weight and brain function have produced mixed results, the researchers say.

The reason is unclear, but it might be that fat deposited around the hips generates higher levels of hormones known as cytokines, which can cause inflammation, affecting brain function.

By Rob Stein  |  July 21, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Mental Health , Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity  
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Comments

I believe this. I have CRS and I am gaining weight as we speak. Is there a bright side to this? Does the memory improve with weight loss?

Posted by: Veritasamus | July 21, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

What about men? This article focuses only on women. Are men exempt from memory loss from weight gain?

Posted by: JNight | July 21, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Most of the people I've known with serious memory loss lose weight. It's not intentional, oftentimes as they slide they forget to eat or lose their appetites.

Did this study exclude those with diagnosed dementia?

Is it implying that being heavy earlier in old-age disposes one to full-blown dementia later on?

Posted by: RedBird27 | July 21, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Darn! I was wondering the upside on this too? If the weight is lost, will memory improve? I do not think I have been gaining much weight but I am trying hard to exercise, eat my fresh fruits/veggies and taking my chewable probiotic everyday - but as I age, my memory does seem to be not as sharp as it once was. I would love to know how to improve this. Although, I think mine is due to being a mom with young children and always multi-tasking!

Posted by: smilinggreenmom | July 25, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Darn! I was wondering the upside on this too? If the weight is lost, will memory improve? I do not think I have been gaining much weight but I am trying hard to exercise, eat my fresh fruits/veggies and taking my chewable probiotic everyday - but as I age, my memory does seem to be not as sharp as it once was. I would love to know how to improve this. Although, I think mine is due to being a mom with young children and always multi-tasking!

Posted by: smilinggreenmom | July 25, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Quite interesting research. Fat cells also contain higher levels of the aromatase enzyme, which makes estrogen.

It is noteworthy that both obesity and HRT increase the risks for the very same diseases, including certain cancers, heart disease, stroke, and dementia/cognitive decline. In fact I have thought for a long time that the excess estrogen resulting from obesity is a primary reason for it being the major disease risk factor that it is.

Someone here also mentioned obesity in men. Obesity in men is definitely linked to the same disases as it is in women. In fact, numerous studies have shown that when a man's estrogen/testosterone ratio is greater, there are is a greater rate of brain tissue loss, memory problems, and Alzheimer's....not to mention sterility and sexual dysfunction. Excess estrogen in men is usually due to overweight and alcohol intake.

Despite these clear links between weight and age-related disease, there is very little mention of the estrogen connection, which is unfortunate because it's quite obvious.

Posted by: jwr3281 | July 26, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

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