Obesity 'could harm the brain as well as the heart', say researchers
10:33 GMT, 22 March 2012
Prevention of obesity could be important for the prevention of cognitive decline or dementia
Those who are overweight in later life aren't just putting their physical health at risk – researchers have found they are more likely to experience cognitive decline as well.
A five-year study of 250 people aged between 60 and 70 found those with excess body fat scored worse on mental ability tests.
A spokesperson from the UK Alzheimer's Society said: 'We have all heard how a high BMI is bad for our heart but this research suggests it could also be bad for the head.'
They noted that it wasn't known if the people in the study went on to develop dementia but previous studies have shown risk
factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and high
cholesterol, were also risk factors for dementia.
Scientists from Seoul National University in South Korea took body mass index readings and waist measurements from the study group between 2004 and 2009.
The participants also took a 'Mini Mental State Examination' made up of 30 simple questions looking at functions including arithmetic, memory and orientation.
Those with high levels of body fat scored lower on the test than their leaner peers. However, this link disappeared in participants aged over 70.
Lead author, Dae Hyun Yoon, said: 'Our findings have important public health implications.
The prevention of obesity, particularly central obesity, might be
important for the prevention of cognitive decline or dementia'.
One in three people over 65 will die with dementia according to the Alzheimer's Society However, eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked could all make a difference.
In 2010, just over a quarter of adults (26 per cent) in England and a third of U.S adults (35.7 per cent) were classified as obese.
The study was published in the journal Age and Ageing.