Latest News » Study shows obesity may impair brain health

Your weight may affect how well you make decisions.

While the majority of Americans know that obesity can cause potentially life-threatening conditions like heart disease and diabetes, they may not fully grasp the importance of proper nutrition for the brain. Far from simply being physically restrictive, obesity can also affect cognitive functions, making everyday problem-solving more mentally strenuous.

On October 13, medical researchers from around the world gathered in New Orleans to attend an annual conference held by the Society for Neuroscience. The Chart, a blog managed by CNN Health correspondents including renowned physician and author Dr. Sanjay Gupta, covered some of the issues addressed at the five-day forum – specifically health, nutrition and the brain.

The news outlet singled out one study conducted by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. According to the source, assistant professor of psychology Timothy Verstynen orchestrated a set of mental exercises and used MRI machines to monitor the brain patterns of participants as they completed them. Individuals of varying weights were shown a number of words and asked to identify the color of the text – a task that became more difficult when the word itself was a color.

Upon reviewing the MRI scans of the participants, the researchers discovered that the brains of heavier test-takers showed more signs of activity than those of normal-weight participants, particularly when answering the trickier questions. This, the media outlet states, indicates that the brains of obese individuals don't work as efficiently.

Most people know without the help of clinical studies that nutrition and the mind are linked in some form or another. However, they may not be aware of the direct effects that their dietary choices can have on specific brain functions.

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