Better impulse control: key to treating obesity and dementia

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The brain holds the secrets for treating obesity and dementia. New research from American University’s Center for Behavioral Neuroscience claim that therapies aimed at treating areas of the brain responsible for memory and learning may also help treat cases of obesity.

Obesity and cognitive decline

“In the struggle to treat these diseases, therapies and preventive measures often fall short. This is a new way for providers who treat people with weight problems and for researchers who study dementias to think about obesity and cognitive decline,” explained Prof. Terry Davidson, center director and lead study author.

Food intake, body weight and cognitive dysfunction

The research reviews findings linking obesity with cognitive decline. It includes the center’s findings about the “vicious cycle” model. This model explains how weight-challenged individuals who suffer from dementia are also susceptible to overeating. Foods that are responsible for obesity are also linked to cognitive impairment. These include dietary fats, sugar and sweeteners, saturated fats and simple carbohydrates. Across age groups, evidence is mounting that link food intake, body weight and cognitive dysfunction. The first signs of cognitive impairment occur in the hippocampus, the same area of the brain that where decision making, behavior control and memory come into play.

The vicious cycle
Eating a diet high in “bad foods” produces pathologies I brain structures and circuits which change and disrupt cognitive abilities. So, people become less able to resist the temptations of unhealthy diet and they eat more of those foods. These foods produce changes in the brain which lead to deterioration and pathological changes to processes important for self-control. Without self-control people can’t resist the temptations of unhealthy diets. “People have known at least since the time of Hippocrates that one key to a healthy life is to eat in moderation. Yet many of us are unable to follow that good advice,” Davidson noted. “Our work suggests that new therapeutic interventions that target brain regions involved with learning and memory may lead to success in controlling both the urge to eat, as well as the undesirable consequences produced by overeating,”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Physiology & Behavior

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