Obesity Increases the Risk for Mental Decline

May 13, 2008 | Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

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 Obesity Increases the Risk for Mental Decline
A new study shows that obese individuals have a 40% increased risk for dementia1 and an 80% increased risk for Alzheimer's. Significant mental decline affects 10% of the elderly population and rates of Alzheimer's are up 20% - consistent with the increase in obesity. There is no reason this has to happen.

I think it will come out sooner or later that the rampant overuse of cardiovascular medications, especially blood pressure and cholesterol lowering medications, will be a key factor in cognitive decline (blood pressure and cholesterol issues commonly occur in overweight individuals). Blood pressure medications, over the long haul, reduce circulation to your brain. Statin drugs actually kill brain cells at an accelerated rate. Neither can possibly be good for brain health in long term use, as the adverse effects are progressively worse over time. One day society will wake up and understand that having the proper levels of proper blood pressure and cholesterol because you are healthy is far different than drugging your body so numbers look better on paper.

Regardless of the drugs, obesity itself accelerates cognitive decline for a number of reasons:
1) Leptin does not enter the brain readily, and leptin acts as a primary antioxidant in the brain protecting against excitotoxic damage.
2) The poor energy level associated with obesity means there is less overall energy (ATP) and your brain runs on ATP.
3) The energy required to form acetylcholine for memory is lacking.
4) Fluctuating blood sugar levels, especially power outages in the afternoon, cause low-energy brain states that are highly stressful.
5) The inflammation coming from extra pounds of fat is quite stressful to your nervous system.
6) Due to all these factors overweight people have less tolerance for stress in general, meaning accelerated nervous system wear and tear from day to day demands and pressures.

Living a long life with the quality of your health requires that you maintain optimal body weight. Obesity is known to increase the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. If you are lucky enough to escape those problems, then you may have to struggle with a rapidly declining brain. Isn't it a lot easier to just eat well, be healthy, and stay fit?

Referenced Studies

  1. ^ Obesity Linked to Cognitive Decline  Obes Rev.   Beydoun MA, Beydoun HA, Wang Y.

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