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Nov 15, 2016 04:08 AM EST

Research Explains How Being Overweight Can Do Harm To Your Brain

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A number of studies and findings suggest that obesity does not only cause damage to your body, but it is also indirectly linked to impairment of your brain functions and memory. This is what Lucy Cheke and her colleagues at the University of Cambridge proved when they invited a few participants into her lab for a "treasure hunt."

In the treasure hunt, the participants were given an access to a computer screen where they navigated a virtual environment while dropping objects off along the way. After which, they were asked a series of questions to check their memory like if they can still remember where they dropped a specific object.

When Cheke examined the results, she has found an association between a person's body mass index or BMI (measure of your weight relative to your height) and their performance during the treasure hunt. Based on Cheke's findings, the higher a person's BMI, the worse they performed with the task.

It helped add evidence to her hypothesis that being overweight has a negative impact to a person's brain by causing brain shrinkage and causing memory deficits. Her research also suggests that the development of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease can be caused by obesity.

She also said that being overweight or obese does not only affect people's brain functions but also influence their eating behavior.

"At the time I was looking at the ability to imagine a future state, particularly in terms of making decisions about food," says Cheke. "If you're hungry, you'll imagine your future self as being hungry, too, but obese people seem to make such decisions on fact-based judgements rather than imagining."

She is looking at the possibility that obesity hinders a person's ability for "mental time travel" as she would call it, because memory and imagination have a strong association. If you are able to clearly recall and put pieces of the past together, it becomes easier to predict the future.

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