Is There a LInk Between Obesity and Cognitive Function?
Health care professionals have long wondered if there is a link between obesity and brain disorders. People suffering from weight disorders (including obesity and anorexia) are often lost when it comes to creating a healthy structure in their daily lives. People with anorexia have executive functioning disorder (EFD).
Eating Disorders Associated With Poor Organizational Skills
The difference between those with anorexia and obesity lies in how this imbalance manifests itself. Those with anorexia are very rigid and obsessively disciplined. This behavior carries over into every aspect of their lives. People with obesity have the opposite problem. They are much more lax and have a hard time finding that discipline.
The fact obese and anorexic people have such different problems maintaining structure in their lives leads many researchers to think the brain disorder can’t be the same. This begs the question: do those suffering from obesity have EFD?
New Study Shows Link Between Obesity and Executive Functioning
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of NSW suggests obese people also have problems with cognitive functioning. If this study is correct, they will benefit from the same therapies used to treat people with anorexia.
Evelyn Smith was the lead researcher on the team. Her team looked at 38 subjects who had obesity. The study found they suffered from reduced executive function. They had a hard time setting and sticking to goals, difficulty making decisions and planning their lives.
Professor Lesley Campbell agreed with her colleagues findings. She says countless studies have concluded that people with obesity had decreased functioning abilities. This is the opposite of those with anorexia. Dr. Campbell says it may be worth a shot to conduct this type of training on obese people as well. Simply lecturing them on eating better and exercising more doesn’t seem to be effective. So why not try something that actually works?
The study does not necessarily mean that obesity is caused by decreased executive function. Obesity can also cause decreased executive functioning as well. Obese people’s brains are affected by excessive glucose and inflammation. The study also says that people have varying levels of decreased functioning abilities. Although some obese people with decreased executive functioning abilities had decision making problems, others did not.
People with executive functioning disorder leading to obesity or other problems may benefit from cognitive remediation therapy. This is a treatment technique developed at King’s College in London. The therapy has been used to help people suffering from cognitive functioning disorders such as schizophrenia. It is also effective at improving memory, attention span and organizational skills.
How Effective Will Therapy Be?
At this time, it is too early to tell how effective cognitive remediation therapy will be. The biggest reason to be skeptical is that we are still unsure how obesity and executive functioning are correlated. Additional studies on the effects obesity has on the brain are also warranted. Either way, the study conducted by Dr. Smith and her colleagues suggests that cognitive remediation therapy may be an effective way to treat people suffering from obesity.