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Obesity and Cognitive Aging

Journal article
Authors Anna Dahl
Linda Hassing
Published in Epidemiologic Reviews
Volume 35
Issue 1
Pages 22-32
ISSN 0193-936X
Publication year 2013
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 22-32
Language en
Keywords adiposity; aged; aging; body mass index; body weight; cognition; obesity; overweight
Subject categories Psychology, Gerontology, specializing in Medical and Health Sciences


Obesity is a health problem that has reached epidemic proportions. Given the high prevalence of obesity, even a small adverse impact of obesity on cognitive aging might have a serious effect on public health. The purpose of this systematic review was to examine the relation between obesity and cognitive function in late life among persons not diagnosed with dementia and to evaluate the evidence for a causal association. Medline was used to search for the following terms: obesity, overweight, cognition, cognitive, age, and aged. To be included, studies must have had a population-based, dementia-free sample and a 5-year minimum interval between measurement of the predictor and the outcome. Only 11 studies met the criteria. Of these, 7 studies assessed obesity in midlife and cognitive function in later life, and 4 studies assessed obesity and cognitive function in late life. The reviewed studies showed clear evidence that midlife obesity was associated with cognitive aging, whereas this association was weaker in late life; thus, no firm conclusions could be drawn. The findings of this review suggest that, although there is evidence for an association between midlife obesity and low cognitive abilities in late life, the direction of the association and the causality remain to be clarified.

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