The impact of obesity on neuropsychological functioning in adults with and without major depressive disorder
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BACKGROUND: Evidence suggests obesity exerts a negative impact on cognition. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is also linked to problems in cognitive functioning. Obesity is highly prevalent in individuals with MDD and is linked to a failure to return to a full level of functioning. The study's objective was to investigate the effect of obesity on cognitive impairment in participants with MDD. METHODS: This study compared cognitive performance in obese individuals with MDD and two control populations (obese individuals without a psychiatric illness and non-obese controls). A standardized battery of neuropsychological tests specifically designed to assess performance in declarative memory, executive functioning, processing speed and attention was administered. Mood ratings, physical measurements, nutritional and health questionnaires were also completed. RESULTS: We observed a consistent pattern across measures of memory, executive functioning, attention and processing speed. Whereas healthy controls performed better than both bariatric groups across the majority of measures administered, bariatric controls tended to outperform bariatric MDD patients. LIMITATIONS: The overall sample size of our study was small and thus largely explorative in nature. However, it provides compelling results (while controlling for extraneous variables such as medication load, nutritional status and common metabolic comordidities) that strongly urges for further investigation and study replication with larger sample sizes. CONCLUSIONS: We found obesity has a subtle impact on cognition in obese individuals, and when obesity is present in individuals with MDD, this impact may be significant. It is important to minimize all modifiable variables that can add to cognitive burden in this population.