Obesity not only increases risks to physical ailments and diseases, but new research finds it can cause mental problems, too.
People who are obese in middle age and have high blood pressure and other “metabolic risk factors” have a faster cognitive decline as they get older than people of normal weight, according to a large study published Monday in the journal Neurology.
The study of about 6,400 participants spanned 10 years. The findings add to research indicating that obesity increases the risk of dementia later in life.
A little more than half of participants were of a normal weight; 38 percent were overweight; and 9 percent were obese. Of all participants, 31 percent had two or more of the metabolic abnormalities: high blood pressure, high glucose levels (diabetes/pre-diabetes), high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol.
Researchers found that cognitive decline progressed fastest in those who were both obese and metabolically abnormal. They registered a 22.5 percent faster cognitive decline than their normal weight counterparts.
Most people who were considered obese did have one or more risk of the physical risk factors, researchers note.
Though researchers aren't exactly sure why obesity is associated with cognitive decline, but they suggest heart disease and inflammation might be involved.