Higher BMI in Adolescence May Affect Cognitive Function in Midlife

Overweight and obesity in adolescents have increased substantially in recent decades, and today affect a third of the adolescent population in some developed countries. While the dangers posed by high adult BMI on cognitive function in later life have been documented, the association of adolescent BMI with cognitive function in midlife has not yet been reported. (BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a calculation of a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters.)

To shed light on this issue, scientists at The Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine set out to determine the association between cumulative life course burden of high-ranked body mass index (BMI), and cognitive function in midlife. The research was led by Professor Jeremy Kark from the Braun School, in The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine, working with colleagues in Israel and the United States.

The researchers used weight and height data from 507 individuals tracked for over 33 years starting at age 17. The participants completed a computerized cognitive assessment [NeuroTrax] at ages 48–52, and their socioeconomic position was assessed by multiple methods. Using mixed models the researchers calculated the life-course burden of BMI from age 17 to midlife, and used multiple regression to assess associations of BMI and height with global cognition and its five component domains.

“In this population-based study of a Jerusalem cohort, followed longitudinally from adolescence for over 33 years, we found that higher BMI in late adolescence and the long-term cumulative burden of BMI predicted poorer cognitive function later in life. Importantly, this study shows that an impact of obesity on cognitive function in midlife may already begin in adolescence, independently of changes in BMI over the adult life course,” said the paper’s senior author, Professor Kark.

For more information, see: https://news.afhu.org/news/higher-bmi-in-adolescence-may-affect-cognitive-function-in-midlife