Research completed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has determined a link between chronic obesity and cognitive decline, caused by epigenetic changes that affect memory-associated genes. A particular enzyme in brain neurons of the hippocampus is the key to this newly discovered link, according to the UAB researchers.
Obesity, which is on the rise in developed nations around the world, has a host of negative health ramifications, including impaired memory. Cognitive problems can be magnified by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep breathing disorder in which obese individuals are at risk for developing. OSA occurs when the airway becomes partially or completely blocked during sleep, interrupting slumber. The effects of OSA on the body include a lack of focus, difficulty paying attention, and cognitive impairment.
A 2005 study of more than 10,000 men and women indicated that obese individuals age 40-45 had a 74 percent increased risk of developing dementia 21 years later. For overweight individuals ages 40-45, there was a 35 percent greater risk of dementia.
Another 2006 study determined a link between a higher body mass index and lowered cognitive scores, after adjusting for age, sex, education, blood pressure, diabetes and other co-variables. Subsequent studies in 2010 and 2011 indicated, respectively, a direct link between metabolic syndrome and reduced intellectual function or increased risk of dementia.
A 2016 article released by UAB delves into the cause of this link between memory loss and obesity, which points to altered gene expression in the hippocampus area of the brain, caused by epigenetic dysregulation in the neurons of the hippocampus. This was determined through experiments performed with obese rodents. UAB research identifies one memory-associated gene product, SIRT1, as the primary pathogenic cause of memory impairment induced by obesity.
Results from this research add to the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. Not only does our weight affect our heart health, among other aspects, but our brains too. Every decision that you make regarding your health will come to surface at some point. Watch your waistline now, if you hope to have a better memory when you are older.
University of Alabama at Birmingham. (2016, January 26). How obesity makes memory go bad. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 17, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160126175513.htm