Is it possible, that a significant increase in my weight has an effect on the function of my thyroid, my concentration and memory? The answer is yes! There is a term used within medical science known as adiposity, which is used to describe unhealthy body weight. In recent times, science has discovered that adiposity is a significant risk factor for the development of several diseases, including Alzheimer's disease. For example, in a 2012 study, individuals with a body mass index greater than 30 showed poor congitive function and had an 80 percent increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Moreover, it is now understood that thyroid hormones, the hormones that help to regulate how your thyroid functions, are also key actors on your central nervous system, particularly during stages of neuro-development. In fact, thyroid hormones help to regulate nervous system myelination (the protective coating over nerve fibres that assists in the transmission of information throughout the body), growth, puberty, metabolism and how our organs function. However, what I find interesting is that as we age the brain becomes more sensitive to thyroid funtion changes, which has lead to several medical practitioners using pharmaceutical thyroid hormones to treat psychiatric and affective disorders. Moreover, hypothyroidism (underfunctioning thyroid) is linked to progressive cognitive impairment and slower thought processes, leading to pseudodementia, a condition used to rule out primary degenerative dementia. For this reason, it is understood that fluctuations in the thyroid hormone, T4 (thyroxine) and TSH (thyroid stimulatng hormone), can compromise concentration and memory. This being so, recent findings point out that among young adults and middle-aged adults, fluctuations in T4 and TSH has a deleterious effect on cognition in the domains of learning, reaction time, and psychomotor speed.
There is new evidence to suggest the adipokine (meaning, fat-cell-movement) hormone, leptin, originally linked to appetite and eating behaviour can actually compromise concentration and memory, by influencing how our genes communicate with each other. Amazing! In fact, when leptin was administered directly into the hippocampus (part of the brain that plays an important role in memory) of mice (I do not agree with this practice, however, it is interesting), it was shown to improve memory processing. However, how does this relate to overweight and obesity. The reason being, leptin levels in overweight and obese individuals is often significantly low. In turn, low leptin induces overfeeding and suppresses energy expenditure. For this reason, the hormone and chemical profiling of overweight and obese individuals increases their risk of developing cognitive disorders.
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