Does obesity affect your cognitive ability?

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A recent study published in PLOS Medicine has found that the links between cognitive ability and body mass index (BMI) may not be as clear-cut as previously thought.

The study was conducted by Liam Wright and colleagues from University College London, UK.

They analyzed data from 12,250 siblings in 5,602 households who were followed from adolescence to age 62 as part of four separate United States youth population cohort studies.

Existing studies have found links between cognitive ability and obesity, with lower cognitive ability in childhood or adolescence associated with higher rates of obesity in later adulthood.

However, Wright and his team found that this link could largely reflect confounding by other factors related to family background.

The researchers compared the association between cognitive ability and BMI within families, allowing them to account for unobserved factors related to family background.

When comparing unrelated individuals in the dataset, the researchers found that moving from the 25th to the 75th percentile of adolescent cognitive ability was associated with an estimated 0.61 kg/m2 decrease in BMI when adjusted for family socioeconomic position.

However, when comparing siblings, moving from the 25th to the 75th percentile of adolescent cognitive ability was only associated with a 0.06 kg/m2 decrease in BMI.

“The results suggest that existing findings on the link between cognitive ability and BMI are biased by shared family factors,” the authors say.

“Given that associations between cognitive ability and other health outcomes have been found using similar observational research designs, sibling data may be useful for assessing potential bias for these health outcomes too.”

While many studies have found an association between higher cognitive ability and lower rates of obesity, this research suggests that this link may not be causal.

The study emphasizes the need for further research into the potential bias of existing research on the links between cognitive ability and other health outcomes.

How to protect your cognitive ability

Cognitive ability refers to the brain’s capacity for thought, perception, and reasoning. It is a vital aspect of our overall health and well-being.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in understanding how to protect and enhance cognitive ability throughout our lives.

There are several strategies that have been suggested to help maintain cognitive ability:

Exercise: Regular physical activity has been shown to improve cognitive ability and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which can improve brain function and promote the growth of new brain cells.

Mental stimulation: Engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, puzzles, or learning a new skill, can help to keep the brain active and maintain cognitive ability.

Sleep: Getting adequate sleep is essential for maintaining cognitive ability. Sleep plays a crucial role in consolidating memories and promoting brain health.

Healthy diet: A healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats is essential for maintaining cognitive ability. Certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, have been shown to have particular benefits for brain health.

Stress management: Chronic stress can have negative effects on cognitive ability. Developing strategies for managing stress, such as meditation, mindfulness, or relaxation techniques, can help to protect cognitive ability.

It’s important to note that there is no single strategy that can guarantee the preservation of cognitive ability.

A combination of lifestyle factors, including regular exercise, mental stimulation, adequate sleep, a healthy diet, and stress management, may help to maintain cognitive ability and promote overall health and well-being.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and Omega-3 fats and carotenoid supplements could improve memory.

For more information about weight loss, please see recent studies that Mediterranean diet can reduce belly fat much better, and Keto diet could help control body weight and blood sugar in diabetes.

The study was published in PLOS Medicine.

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