Weight loss improved memory performance in obese women

  • June 15, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO — Obese women who followed the Paleolithic diet demonstrated improved memory performance, according to data presented here at ENDO 2013.

“Prevous studies suggest obesity is associated with impaired memory functions, lowered processing speed, impaired executive function and reduced attention,” Andreas Pettersson, MD, a PhD student at Umea University in Sweden, said during a presentation here.

Andreas Pettersson, MD 

Andreas Pettersson

As part of a larger diet-focused study, Pettersson and colleagues randomly assigned 9 overweight postmenopausal women (mean age, 61 years) to a Paleolithic diet for 6 months (30% protein, 30% carbohydrates and 40% fat, with a high content of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids), and 11 women were assigned to a diet using the Nordic nutrition recommendations (15% protein, 55% carbohydrates and 30% fat, with a high content of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids).

According to a data, BMI decreased from 32.1 kg/m2 at baseline to 29.2 kg/m2 at 6 months, and the average weight decreased from 188.9 lb (85 kg) to 171.3 lb (77.1 kg).

The insula, superior temporal gyrus, and medial temporal gyrus regions of the brain improved as a result of the weight loss, according to Pettersson.

“The take home message from this talk is that obesity seems to be associated with impaired memory. Diet-induced weight loss improves memory performance and weight loss may improve brain efficiency during episodic memory testing,” he said. – by Samantha Costa

For more information:

Pettersson A. #OR09-6. Presented at: The Endocrine Society Annual Meeting and Expo; June 15-18, 2013; San Francisco.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

  • One question I had pertained to sleep apnea because these women are overweight or obese so it’s likely that a good proportion of them had sleep apnea at baseline. Sleep apnea is known to impact memory because it affects neuro function, such as daytime sleepiness. The weight loss these women demonstrated is consistent. In women, sleep apnea is not typically very severe. Therefore, if they lost that amount of weight, their sleep apnea may have been cured, thus memory improvement may be due to that.

    • Lisa Morselli, MD, PhD
    • Research Project Professional
      Section of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
      Sleep, Metabolism and Health CenterUniversity of Chicago
  • Disclosures: Morselli reports no relevant financial disclosures.


Healio is intended for health care provider use and all comments will be posted at the discretion of the editors. We reserve the right not to post any comments with unsolicited information about medical devices or other products. At no time will Healio be used for medical advice to patients.