Memory Loss Linked to Overweight

Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

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How could excess weight cause memory loss? Full fat cells produce proteins called cytokines that turn on your immunity to cause inflammation that damages tissue throughout your body, including your brain. Researchers at Toulouse University Hospital in France tested people first in 1996 and again five years later. During that period, overweight people lost far more of their ability to recall words than their thinner counterparts. (Neurology, October 2006).

Your immunity is supposed to protect you from infections. When a germ gets into your body, your immunity produces white blood cells and proteins called antibodies that attach to and kill germs. As soon as the germ is gone, your immunity is supposed to stop making antibodies and white blood cells. In some people the immunity remains active and attacks a person’s own body to cause heart attacks, strokes, certain cancers, and even diabetes. This recent study shows that it may even attack your nerves and brain. Being overweight can cost you IQ points, and the most effective way to prevent obesity is to exercise regularly.

How much do you need to exercise to lose weight? In one recent study, researchers asked people to walk and count an extra 2000 steps each day (Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietetics, August 2006). This is really a minimal amount of exercise. They also kept complete food diaries. They lost weight and did not increase their food intake. When you start an exercise program, your appetite may increase, but this will not increase your caloric intake to equal the extra calories that you burn. For example, if you burn 600 calories with added exercise, you may take in 200 calories extra and you will lose weight.

Exercise helps you lose weight by raising your metabolism so you burn more calories for several hours after you finish exercising. However, only vigorous exercise that increases body temperature and makes you sweat will increase your metabolism enough to continue burning more calories after you finish. Overweight is a major cause of premature death and increases risk for heart attacks, strokes, cancers and arthritis. If you are out of shape and want to lose weight, get a stress cardiogram and ask your doctor to clear you for an exercise program. Start slowly and then gradually increase the intensity of your exercise over several months.

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Dr. Gabe Mirkin has been a radio talk show host for 25 years and practicing physician for more than 40 years; he is board certified in four specialties, including sports medicine. Read or listen to hundreds of his fitness and health reports - and the FREE Good Food Book - at


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