Science, it seems, is very much against obesity. And for good reason: it has been identified as a cause of many serious medical conditions, from type 2 diabetes to heart disease and many others. And science has added another reason to fight obesity: a small study conducted on 50 people has shown that it also impairs the “episodic memory”, the ability to remember past experiences.
Episodic memory is the “who, what, when, why” knowledge of past events. It is the process through which events from your life and the times, places and emotions associated with them. Basically, it’s a collection of past personal experiences that happened at a specific time in a specific place.
Obesity and memory
The study called Higher body mass index is associated with episodic memory deficits in young adults found a correlation between obesity and a reduced performance on a test of episodic memory. It has been known in the past that obesity has its effects on brain function, impairing the function of the hippocampus (responsible for emotion and long-term memory) and the frontal lobe (which assures spontaneity, judgment and impulse control). Researchers at the University of Cambridge have selected 50 participants between the ages of 18 and 35, with BMIs ranging from 18 to 51, and tested them using a novel “Treasure-Hunt Task” episodic memory test. People with a higher BMI have performed significantly worse on the test, the study shows.
It’s not amnesia, though
“The suggestion we’re making is that a higher BMI is having some reduction on the vividness of memory, but they’re not drawing blanks and having amnesia,” Dr. Lucy Cheke from the University of Cambridge told BBC News. “But if they have a less strong memory of a recent meal, with a less strong impact in the mind, then they may have less ability to regulate how much they eat later on.”
It seems that obesity perpetuates itself through the impairment of brain function. The mind has a key role in how much we eat. People who eat their dinner in front of the TV, with their attention diverted from their meal, have been shown to eat more and feel hungry sooner. The same can be true for overweight people with their long-term memory impaired.