Being Obese May Mean Having Really Bad Memory


A small study has shown that people who are obese have worse memory than slimmer people. The tests were carried out on 50 people who were shown to be overweight.

It was shown that the excessive weight had a negative effect on “episodic memory” which is the ability to remember past experiences or episodes. Episodic memory has been likened to a video tape in your mind that plays back accurately an event like how you savored your favorite meal or how you held the hand of someone you love, or even irritation at a character displayed.

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The study which is in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology argues that the inability to have a less vivid memory of recent meals could lead to bouts of overeating. The other aspects of memory such as general knowledge remained unaffected. Tests carried out on rats had previously shown that weight came with poorer performance in memory tests, but the evidence among human beings have been mixed.


In the course of the small study, fifty people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) ranging from 18 (normal) to 51 (very obese) took part in a memory test, that was fashioned like a self-imposed treasure hunt. They had to hide objects at different times and on different scenes shown on a computer screen, they were then meant to find what they had hidden, where they had hidden it and also recall when they had hidden it. The results showed that the obese people had 15% lower scores compared to thinner people.


Although hormones are a big part of the equation of how much we eat, it is widely recognized that our minds play a big part in the equation too. For instance, when you watch a movie while eating, you will tend to eat more food or feel hunger sooner. Dr Lucy Cheke, from the University of Cambridge, told the BBC News website; “It is too early to talk in terms of advice, but we are certainly beginning to observe the mechanisms that obesity perpetuates itself…Concentrating on your food has been a message for a long time, but that may be a bit harder if you’re overweight…Hopefully knowing what’s going on will help us to develop ways of helping people.”

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