How Weight Affects Brain Function

Maintaining a healthy weight has become a challenge in today’s society, but there are many good reasons to watch your weight.

A higher body mass index (BMI) can lower cognitive functioning in later life, find researchers from the University of Arizona.

Being overweight or obese increases the level of inflammation and consequently elevates cognitive decline.

Mr Kyle Bourassa, the lead author of the study, said:

“The higher your BMI, the more your inflammation goes up.

Prior research has found that inflammation—particularly in the brain—can negatively impact brain function and cognition.”

The study analyzed 12 years worth of information on 21,500 English people age 50 and older.

They looked at the information related to BMI, inflammation and cognition of the study’s participants.

Mr Bourassa explains their findings:

“The higher participants’ body mass at the first time point in the study the greater the change in their CRP levels over the next four years.

CRP stands for C-reactive protein, which is a marker in the blood of systemic inflammation in your body.

Change in CRP over four years then predicted change in cognition six years after the start of the study.

The body mass of these people predicted their cognitive decline through their levels of systemic inflammation.”

Previous studies have also suggested an association between inflammation and cognitive decline but this study also highlights the importance of body mass.


The study was published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity (Bourassa & Sbarra, 2016).

 BMI image from Shutterstock