Kent State professor researches mental ability and weight loss

Graphic by Rachael Chillcott.

Graphic by Rachael Chillcott.

James King

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight; however, yielding positive results could rely on your memory.

John Gunstad, associate professor of psychology at Kent State, led a study that found the amount of weight a person loses could greatly increase depending on how good their memory is.

“It seems like common sense, yet there was never a conclusive study that proved the link between weight loss and memory,” Gunstad said.

The research was gathered from individuals who underwent bariatric surgery — which is an umbrella term for weight loss surgeries such as gastric bypass surgery or stomach stapling — and how their mental abilities increased or decreased after their procedure.

“We found that people who lost all the weight from the bariatric surgery actually had improved mental cognition,” Gunstad said.

This improvement of mental cognition that allowed those studied to organize themselves and keep focused on their goals.

Gunstad said currently, individuals who undergo bariatric surgery don’t always keep the weight off: some cases gained all of the weight back and then some.

“This is the first study of it’s kind,” Gunstad said, “we may have found the linchpin that will allow individuals to keep their weight off from surgery.”

The study said that losing weight would also increase the quality of one’s memory.

“There are a lot of unhealthy aspects of obesity,” Gunstad said. “The extra weight does affect one’s brain, and we’re starting to see that it affects one’s memory.”

John Gunstad received his Ph.D. at Ohio University in 2002. He’s been teaching at Kent State University for six years.

Contact James King at [email protected].