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Lose Weight, Gain Better Memory and Concentration


It appears that if you lose weight, you may also gain improved memory and concentration, according to results of a study to be published in Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases. The study involved patients who had undergone bariatric surgery to lose weight.

Better memory is seen 12 weeks postsurgery

Obesity and overweight are associated with an increased risk of numerous health conditions, including coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, breast and colon cancers, gallbladder disease, and more.

For people who are obese and who undergo bariatric surgery, the risk of these serious health problems can be significantly reduced when they lose weight. But they may also gain something else at the same time: improved brain function.

According to John Gunstad, a neuropsychologist and an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Kent State University, who led the research team, he had noticed in previous work with obese patients that they tended to make “little mental errors.”

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In the current study, Gunstad and his team evaluated 109 bariatric surgery patients and 41 obese control volunteers at Cornell Medical College and at Weill Columbia University Medical Center, both in New York City, and at the Neuropsychiatric Research Institute in Fargo, North Dakota.

Before they underwent surgery, many of the 109 patients exhibited slightly impaired mental functions, such as memory and the ability to concentrate. Twelve weeks after bariatric surgery, however, cognitive function had improved to the normal range.

In a Kent news release, Gunstad noted that “this is the first evidence to show that by going through this surgery, individuals might improve their memory, concentration and problem solving.” The investigators will follow the study participants for two years.

The improvement in cognitive function among the bariatric surgery patients was not a surprise to Gunstad, who noted that many of the factors that typically accompany obesity, such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes, can also affect the brain but also often can be corrected. “As those problems go away, memory function gets better,” he said.

Studies in other groups have shown that when people—young, old, normal weight—improve their cardiovascular health, their brain health also gets better. Gunstad and his team now plan to determine whether people who lose weight without bariatric surgery also see an improvement in memory and concentration.

Kent State University