Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Monday, 18 April 2011

The elephant in the room isn't all that bright

News this week from the land of the free;

Scientists say substantial weight loss improves cognitive functions like memory and concentration.

Researchers in Ohio rounded up 150 people weighing over 21 stone (not, from what I hear, a difficult task in the mid-west) and gave them a bunch of intelligence and memory tests.

Then two-thirds of the subjects had gastric bypass operations; 12 weeks later, they all took the tests again, and this is where it starts getting interesting.

The group that lost weight boosted their scores, particularly those involving memory, significantly. They also showed great improvement in organisational skills.

So far so good. However, there's more...

The 41 obese volunteers who declined the surgery ended up with even worse results.

Uh-oh; treading on dangerous ground here – no wonder that news reports worldwide have chosen to spin the story from the ‘weight loss boosts brainpower’ angle. The only paper to carry it so far in the UK – the Mail – is no exception:

Losing weight is not only good for the waistline, it is good for the brain.

So what about the converse? Funnily enough, despite the researchers’ assertion that obesity damages the brain, ‘especially the parts most important for paying attention and learning new things’, that side of things seems to have slipped under the radar.

I suppose it’s hardly surprising – those scientists probably don’t get out much, but in today’s climate, anyone in the public eye suggesting such a thing might find themselves on the receiving amount of a considerable amount of flack from the PC brigade.

Should our great and the good accept these findings and decide that the situation needs action of some kind, they would hardly be able to explain why without attracting criticism from every side. It would certainly be entertaining to watch.

So will you tell them or shall I?


  1. "Researchers in Ohio rounded up 150 people weighing over 21 stone (not, from what I hear, a difficult task in the mid-west)..."

    Well, you don't have to worry about rustlers, certainly!