Research from the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term, multicenter trial that tracked more than 160,000 older women for over 15 years, starting in 1991, found that for every one point increase in body mass index (a standard measure for body weight), there was a one point drop in cognitive performance scores. This association persisted even after controlling for high blood pressure and diabetes, which suggests that the loss of cognitive ability isn’t just from poor blood circulation to the brain. The researchers felt that being overweight, in and of itself, was probably affecting the brain.
Another study, published in the respected journal Human Brain Mapping in 2009, used brain imaging to show that brains of obese people had 8 percent less brain tissue and appeared 16 years older than the brains of lean individuals. Those who were merely overweight had 4 percent less brain tissue and had brains that appeared eight years older than lean individuals.
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