Obesity is associated with memory deficits in young and middle-aged adults

Eat Weight Disord. 2006 Mar;11(1):e15-9. doi: 10.1007/BF03327747.


Recent findings suggest obesity is associated with reduced memory performance in older adults. The present study examined whether similar deficits also exist in younger adults and the degree to which the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and memory varies as a function of age. Prior to inclusion, participants were rigorously screened and excluded for medical conditions known to impact cognitive functioning, including neurological disorders, head injury, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. A total of 486 healthy adults completed a verbal list-learning task. Participants were categorized into normal weight, overweight, and obese groups based on their BMI. Performance on learning, delayed recall, and recognition performance were compared across BMI groups. Results showed obese individuals had poorer memory performance when comparing persons across the adult lifespan (age 21-82 yr), but also when examining only younger and middle-aged adults (age 21-50 yr). Regression analyses found no evidence of an interaction between BMI and age on any memory variable, suggesting the relationship between BMI and memory does not vary with age. These findings provide further support for an independent relationship between obesity and reduced memory performance and suggest these effects are not limited to older adults. Further research is needed to identify etiological factors.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Overweight*
  • Reference Values
  • Regression Analysis