We all know that when you are obese or overweight, losing weight can improve your physical health. According to the Los Angeles Times, a new study from Kent State University in Ohio suggests that obese patients who have their fat surgically removed may also see improvements in their cognitive function, including memory and concentration, when compared to obese people who didn’t have surgery.
As outlined in the study’s abstract, researchers from Kent State University in Ohio provided 150 obese patients in New York and North Dakota with a cognitive and memory test that involved computer mazes and word recall. Many of the patients scored in the low-average to average range before 2/3 of the group underwent bariatric weight loss surgery. Following the surgery, participants shed an average of 17% of their body weight and rested for 12 weeks.
After the rest period, everyone retook the cognitive and memory tests and the people who had the surgery tested in average to above-average ranges, while the group that didn’t have the surgery actually tested slightly worse. The findings have all been reported in the Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases.
Because this study was very small, it is hard to say whether or not the findings are conclusive. Most experts agree that additional studies would be necessary to draw conclusions. There are also a number of factors that contributes to a person’s memory.
“Memory is also mediated by self-confidence, which weight loss improves,” said Dr. John La Puma, physician and host of the PBS program Eat & Cook Healthy!. “Additionally, nitric oxide rises following an operation, which dilates cerebral arteries and improves brain blood flow.”
John Gunstad, a psychologist at Kent State who led the research, told the Los Angeles Times that people usually score better on tests the second time around, so it is possible that the results could be attributed to a “situation effect.”
“It appears that [lowering the subjects’ blood pressure] is at least part of the explanation,” said Gunstad. “But it doesn’t explain all the pieces.”
Regardless of the explanation behind this particular study, it is important to note that weight loss surgery is certainly accompanied by a number of risks. Before planning a weight loss surgery – or any elective procedure – it is important to address the potential health risks without surgery first.