Adolescent weight history and adult cognition: before and after bariatric surgery.


BACKGROUND Cognitive deficits occur in a subset of individuals with obesity. Deficits can be reversed with bariatric surgery, though cognitive recovery is not equally exhibited across patients. Recent work has found that obesity during adolescence portends medical complications in adulthood; it is unknown if obesity in adolescence predicts adult cognition or cognitive recovery after weight loss surgery. OBJECTIVES The present study examines the relationship between weight history and cognitive function in obese adults undergoing bariatric surgery. SETTING Academic medical centers with bariatric care services. METHODS Seventy-eight bariatric surgery patients (mean age = 43.2 years) enrolled in an ancillary study to the Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (LABS) project completed a questionnaire recalling weight history at age 18. Cognitive testing was completed preoperatively and at 12-month follow-up. RESULTS Weight status at age 18 was linked to performance in several aspects of cognition. Higher body mass index at age 18 predicted poorer preoperative verbal fluency (B = -.26, P = .045) as well as postoperative cognitive recovery in attention (B = -.30, P = .01) at 12-month follow-up. CONCLUSION Higher body mass index at age 18 predicts verbal fluency performance in adults with obesity, as well as postoperative recovery of attention after bariatric surgery. The mechanisms underlying this connection are not fully clear, though findings may reflect effects of obesity on the brain during a crucial period of neural maturation or duration of obesity and cumulative impact of co-morbidities on cognition. Future work examining possible causal factors involved in these relationships is needed.


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