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Two sides of the cognition coin

Posted by wmagnus On August - 31 - 2009

The last couple of weeks has seen a couple studies that take a long look at brain function relative to health and habits. Most specifically the studies look at weight and diet. The results of both really aren’t surprising to those of us that follow the literature but they bear repeating, especially for those looking to age against the machine.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh looked at the volumes of people’s brains and found that several changes to the anatomy of the brain correlated with weight. Published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, the study found that people who are obese show atrophy in their frontal lobes, the part of the brain associated with reasoning, planning, parts of speech, movement, emotions, and problem solving. People who are merely overweight show atrophy of their basal ganglia, a part of the brain associated with coordination of muscle motion and the part that breaks down in Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, overweight and obese patients had significantly lower brain volumes than normal weight people. All of this just adds weight to the arguments against obesity.

Happier news comes from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Much has already been written about the Mediterranean diet, but what French researchers found was that people who adhered more closely to a Mediterranean diet had a much slower onset of cognitive decline as they aged. This was measured using one particular type of testing; the other tests they used showed less consistent results. Even so, given the benefits of reduced risk of disease and mortality that come with the Mediterranean diet, better cognition is a delightful bonus.

Any way you look at it, healthy eating and maintaining an appropriate weight are important factors in maintaining both physical and mental health as we age.

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