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Obesity and metabolic dysfunction are both correlated with increased rates of cognitive decline. However, because these two conditions often co-occur, it remains unclear whether their cognitive consequences are independent. In this review, we carefully consider literature examining the effects of metabolic dysfunction and increased adiposity on cognition across the lifespan, including only well-controlled studies that attempt to dissociate their effects. We found a total of 36 studies, 17 examining metabolic dysfunction and 19 examining the effects of adiposity. We found evidence from the literature suggesting that increased adiposity and metabolic dysfunction may contribute to deficits in executive function, memory, and medial temporal lobe structures largely independent of one another. These deficits are thought to arise principally from physiological changes associated with inflammation, vascularization, and oxidative stress, among others. Such processes may result from excess adipose tissue and insulin resistance that occur independently and can further exacerbate when the two conditions co-occur. However, we also find it likely that impaired cognition plays a role in behavioral and lifestyle choices that lead to increased adiposity and metabolic dysfunction, which can then perpetuate and augment cognitive decline. We recommend additional prospective and longitudinal studies to examine whether impaired cognition is a cause and/or consequence of these factors.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Physiology & behavior
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