Obesity doesn’t come calling alone; it brings physical health problems in tow. Research has shown that weighing about 20 per cent more than the normal weight for your height makes you more prone to heart disease and stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease and gallstones, osteoarthritis, gout, some cancers, and breathing problems such as sleep apnea and asthma.
But being overweight may also lead to problems related to the mind.
Research from the University of Cambridge says that overweight young adults are likely to have poor episodic memory, the ability to recall past events, as compared to their fitter counterparts.
Clearly, there’s more reason to drop those extra kilos, especially if you’re young.
The study, published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, found an association between high body mass index (BMI) and poorer performance on a test of episodic memory. This indicates that a high BMI may inhibit young adults’ ability to perform certain cognitive tasks at the best possible level.
The small-scale study focused on 50 participants aged between 18 and 35 years, with body mass index ranging from 18 to 51. A BMI of 18-25 is considered healthy, 25-30 overweight and more than 30 classifies you as obese.
The study tested the participants’ memory through a “treasure-hunt task”, where they were asked to hide items around complex scenes displayed on a computer over a set period of time. They then had to recall which items they had hidden, when and where. People with higher BMI performed poorer, supporting the notion that obesity is associated with poorer memory.
Obesity and being overweight is a problem across the world and it’s growing. The rate of obesity has doubled since 1980 and is expected to soar in coming decades. The latest World Health Organisation figures show that more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight in 2014; 600 million of them were obese.
Obesity affects the hippocampus, an area of the brain linked to memory and learning which contributes to decision-making, problem-solving and sharing emotions.
Dr Lucy Cheke, a psychologist at Cambridge University, said in an interview: “Increasingly, we’re beginning to see that memory – especially episodic memory, the kind where you mentally relive a past event – is also important. How vividly we remember a recent meal, for example, today’s lunch can make a difference to how hungry we feel and how much we are likely to reach out for that tasty chocolate bar later on.”
Clearly, it’s time to find a fitness routine that works for you and gets on to the path to weight loss.