TUESDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Retired National Football League players who pack on the pounds may not be as sharp later in life as their counterparts who maintain a healthy weight, a new study suggests.
Previous research has found that pro football players are already at risk for cognitive problems, including dementia, due to repeated head trauma during their on-the-field years.
The new study, published in the Jan. 17 online issue of Translational Psychiatry, evaluates how their weight may affect brain health.
"The overweight group had significantly less activity and mental acuity," said study co-author Dr. Daniel Amen, medical director of Amen Clinics, in Newport Beach, Calif.
Amen and his colleagues recruited former NFL players between the ages of 25 and 82 for their study. Most of the study participants were middle-aged. Each had been on an active NFL roster for at least three years. To learn more about the relationship between their weight and brain health, the scientists compared 38 healthy-weight and 38 overweight players.
The participants met with a doctor and answered questions about their health history, and their weight and waistlines were measured. They were also given a series of cognitive tests measuring a range of brain functions, including memory, how fast they processed material, attention and reasoning.
Each participant also underwent brain scans -- single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) -- to measure blood flow to the brain. Amen said heavier athletes were more likely to have poorer blood flow in the temporal and prefrontal cortex regions, which are areas of the brain involving attention, reasoning and executive function. Poorer results on cognitive tests corresponded to poorer blood flow in the higher-weight patients, too, he said.
Amen said he was also concerned by the amou
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