Quick Study

Quick Study: Pear-shaped women may suffer worse memory loss than others

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Pear-shaped older women may suffer worse memory loss than others

THE QUESTION Does an older woman's weight affect the workings of her brain, including her memory?

THIS STUDY analyzed data on 8,745 women, 65 to 79 years old, who were generally in good health and had no evidence of cognitive decline. The women completed standardized tests for mental functioning and had an array of physical measurements recorded, including body mass index (BMI, an indicator of body fatness, based on a person's weight and height). In general, the higher a woman's BMI, the lower she scored on memory tests. The effect was most pronounced among pear-shaped women (whose fat is carried on the hips) than apple-shaped women (who have more of their fat around the waist).

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Older women. Memory problems are common as people age. Loss of brain cells starts in the early 20s, so forgetting a name or where the car keys are is normal by age 60 or so. Other things have been shown to affect memory, too, including depression, alcohol and drug use, stroke and dementia (which also affects broader thinking ability and involves forgetting how to do once-familiar tasks and how to get someplace frequently visited).

CAVEATS Nearly all study participants were white; whether the finding applies equally to other races is unknown. The reason weight and fat distribution may affect memory remains unclear.

FIND THIS STUDY July 14 online issue of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

LEARN MORE ABOUT memory loss at http://www.fda.gov and http://www.familydoctor.org.

-- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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