Kent State psychology professor to speak about obesity and Alzheimer’s disease at Cleveland Clinic annual summit

Carolyn Pippin

John Gunstad, associate professor in the Psychology Department at Kent State, will discuss the links between obesity and Alzheimer’s disease at the Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit on Tuesday.

Gunstad will participate in a panel of experts at the annual Medical Innovation Summit. The summit is a three-day conference for more than 1,000 health care executives, investors, researchers and leaders to discuss latest medical innovations.

Gunstad’s research is focused on proving whether bariatric surgery might reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in obese individuals. Bariatric surgery is a term that refers to a group of procedures that help individuals lose weight, Gunstad said in an email.

“More than 70 (percent) of American adults are now overweight or obese and this number is expected to increase in coming years,” Gunstad said. “When combined with the growing proportion of older adults, this trend has the potential to cause a significant increase in the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that cause memory loss.”

Gunstad’s research has shown that surgical patients have better memory and other mental abilities as soon as 12 weeks after surgery. These benefits persist until at least three years after the surgery. His initial study included nearly 200 patients.

Psychology graduate students at Kent State “have had the opportunity to take part in this cutting-edge research, including helping to analyze the complex data and present study findings at the conferences,” Gunstad said.

Gunstad’s research has been beneficial in two different ways. First, it provides a model to better understand how obesity affects the brain. Second, it highlights that even in people with significant medical problems, “memory loss is not always permanent,” he said.

Carolyn Pippin is a news correspondent for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at[email protected].