Background: Well-known risk factors for cognitive impairment are also associated with obesity. Research has highlighted genetic risk factors for obesity, yet the relationship of those risk factors with cognitive impairment is unknown. The objective of this study was to determine the associations between cognition, hypertension, diabetes, sleep-disordered breathing, and obesity. Genetic risk factors of obesity were also examined.
Methods: The sample consisted of 369 nondemented individuals aged 50 years or older from four community cohorts. Primary outcome measures included auditory verbal memory, as measured by the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, and executive functioning, as measured by the Color-Word Interference Test of the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System battery. Apnea-hypopnea index indicators were determined during standard overnight polysomnography. Statistical analyses included Pearson correlations and linear regressions.
Results: Poor executive function and auditory verbal memory were linked to cardiovascular risk factors, but not directly to obesity. Genetic factors appeared to have a small but measureable association to obesity.
Conclusion: A direct linkage between obesity and poor executive function and auditory verbal memory is difficult to discern, possibly because nonobese individuals may show cognitive impairment due to insulin resistance and the "metabolic syndrome".
Keywords: BMI; diabetes; hypertension; obesity; sleep apnea; sleep-disordered breathing.