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Another Reason to cut Calories: Overeating Linked to Memory Loss

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Consuming too many calories can lead to memory loss in older adults.

Overeating can lead to memory loss, new research suggests. Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, was twice as likely to occur in people over age 70 in a study that found consuming a high calorie diet might double the risk of memory loss that could lead to Alzheimer's disease.

The finding, scheduled to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans, compared calorie intake among 1,233 people between the ages of 70 and 89 in Olmsted County, Minnesota.

Study author Yonas E. Geda, MD, MSc, with the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona and a member of the American Academy of Neurology said, "We observed a dose-response pattern which simply means; the higher the amount of calories consumed each day, the higher the risk of MCI.”

The study participants were between age 70 and 89. Of the 1, 233 people included, 163 had MCI. None were diagnosed with dementia. The number of calories they consumed were self-reported and ranged between 600 and 6000 calories per day.

One-third of the older adults in the study consumer between 600 and 1,526 calories per day, one-third between 1,526 and 2,143 and one-third consumed between 2,143 and 6,000 calories per day.

When the researchers did a comparison of memory loss related to the highest amount of calories consumed, they found double the chances of memory loss linked to overeating, even after factoring other risks such as stroke, education and diabetes.

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The study is not the first to link overeating with memory problems. According to a recent report from EmaxHealth, findings from researchers at the University of Turku suggest obesity that comes from overeating alters glucose metabolism in the brain. Denise Reynolds, a registered dietician, who covered the story, wrote,” Regulation of glucose within the brain has an impact on behavior and plays an important role in many disease states including diabetes and dysfunctional memory and cognition.”

Research has also found postmenopausal women who are obese in mid-life might experience loss of gray and white matter in the brain that could lead to cognitive decline later in life.

Overeating and obesity that comes from consuming inflammatory or fatty foods that have high calorie content may also contribute to memory loss, according to a 2009 study published in the FASEB journal. Researchers found eating a high fat diet can impair memory and function in just a few days in studies conducted on rats.

Conversely, eating a calorie restricted diet has been suggested to delay aging changes that can occur in the body, including the brain, by keeping an anti-aging enzyme peroxiredoxin active.

The new study supports research showing consuming a high calorie diet, which also leads to obesity and other diseases that can affect memory contributes to cognitive decline. Consuming fewer calories might be an important factor for preventing memory loss with aging. Findings from the research show overeating can lead to memory loss in older adults, potentially leading to dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

American Academy of Neurology
February 12, 2012

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