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Open AccessArticle

The Effects of a 12-Month Weight Loss Intervention on Cognitive Outcomes in Adults with Overweight and Obesity

1
Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA
2
Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA
3
Healthy Lifestyle Institute, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA
4
College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education, Murdoch University, Perth, WA 6150, Australia
5
Department of Biostatistics, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA
6
Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA
7
Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2020, 12(10), 2988; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12102988
Received: 8 September 2020 / Revised: 21 September 2020 / Accepted: 23 September 2020 / Published: 29 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role of Physical Activity and Diet in Human Health during Aging)
Obesity is associated with poorer executive functioning and reward sensitivity. Yet, we know very little about whether weight loss through diet and/or increased exercise engagement improves cognitive function. This study evaluated whether weight loss following a dietary and exercise intervention was associated with improved cognitive performance. We enrolled 125 middle-aged adults with overweight and obesity (98 female) into a 12-month behavioral weight loss intervention. Participants were assigned to one of three groups: energy-restricted diet alone, an energy-restricted diet plus 150 min of moderate intensity exercise per week or an energy restricted diet plus 250 min of exercise per week. All participants completed tests measuring executive functioning and/or reward sensitivity, including the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). Following the intervention, weight significantly decreased in all groups. A MANCOVA controlling for age, sex and race revealed a significant multivariate effect of group on cognitive changes. Post-hoc ANCOVAs revealed a Group × Time interaction only on IGT reward sensitivity, such that the high exercise group improved their performance relative to the other two intervention groups. Post-hoc ANCOVAs also revealed a main effect of Time, independent of intervention group, on IGT net payoff score. Changes in weight were not associated with other changes in cognitive performance. Engaging in a high amount of exercise improved reward sensitivity above and beyond weight loss alone. This suggests that there is additional benefit to adding exercise into behavioral weight loss regimens on executive functioning, even without additional benefit to weight loss. View Full-Text
Keywords: exercise; weight loss; reward sensitivity; executive function exercise; weight loss; reward sensitivity; executive function
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Peven, J.C.; Jakicic, J.M.; Rogers, R.J.; Lesnovskaya, A.; Erickson, K.I.; Kang, C.; Zhou, X.; Porter, A.; Donofry, S.D.; Watt, J.C.; Stillman, C.M. The Effects of a 12-Month Weight Loss Intervention on Cognitive Outcomes in Adults with Overweight and Obesity. Nutrients 2020, 12, 2988.

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