Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Losing weight can contribute to health, happiness in unexpected ways

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A smaller dress size and a healthier body are only two of the life-enhancing by-products of regular exercise and a balanced diet. Here are eight more unexpected ways your life gets bigger when you grow smaller.


You'll recognize faces better.

No more awkward moments at dinner parties and business meetings: Researchers at Umea University in Sweden found the ability to remember faces improves in overweight women after they shed pounds. After six months of dieting, the areas of the brain that help identify faces showed increased activity. Researchers speculate that weight loss makes the brain better equipped to store new memories and access stored information.


You'll save money.

Not all junk food is cheap, especially when you scarf down a ton of it. You'll save nearly $600 a year once you ditch your three-can-a-day sugary soda habit. Or more than double that amount if it's a pint of ice cream you fancy. No matter what a fast-food value menu may lead you to believe, the price for a piece of fruit is almost always cheaper than a sack of greasy fries.


And you'll earn more.

Weighing less can significantly improve the flow of cash into your bank account: A study from the University of Florida found women who weighed 25 pounds more than average earned $13,847 less a year than a normal-weight female employee. Over the course of a 25-year career, that adds up to $389,300.


You'll be happier.

And it's not just because you'll be thrilled by the smaller number on the scale. When researchers at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands studied people who were both overweight and obese, they found both groups were significantly more likely to experience bouts of clinical depression. Unfortunately, they found the opposite was also true: Depression is more likely to cause obesity, setting you up for a downward spiral. Researchers aren't entirely clear whether obesity causes depression, or vice versa.


Your brain will stay sharper.

It turns out organs and joints aren't the only things overtaxed by excess body fat -- living extra large may weigh brains down too, according to a study in the journal Neurology. Researchers studied the cognitive abilities of people who were a normal weight, those who were overweight, and those who were clinically obese. Over the 10 years of the study, the obese subjects experienced a 22.5 per cent faster decline on their cognitive test scores than those who were of normal weight. Although scientists say the connection between obesity and cognitive decline isn't entirely clear, heart disease and inflammation may be a factor.


Your skin will look healthier.

And we're not just talking about cellulite. According to a review in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, obesity is responsible for a whole host of unsightly and uncomfortable skin problems, including changes in skin-barrier function (which protects against infection), sebum production (which can lead to pimples and blemishes), collagen structure (which keeps skin supple) and wound healing. It also increases your risk of skin infections, psoriasis and excessive hair growth, possibly because obesity impacts hormone levels.


You'll sleep better.

Excess weight is directly linked to sleep apnea, an interrupted-breathing sleep disorder that affects an estimated 18 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Extra body fat, particularly in the upper body, impedes respiratory function. And not sleeping well sets you up for a vicious cycle too, since people who are short on sleep tend to weigh more: Those who clock less than five hours a night are significantly more likely to be overweight, according to a study from Case Western Reserve University.


You'll see more clearly.

According to a review in the Survey of Ophthalmology, obesity is linked to cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. The reason it's associated with cataracts is unclear, but obesity increases ocular pressure, one of the key risk factors for glaucoma. It also ups the odds for oxidative damage, which worsens your vision over time.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 7, 2013 0


Updated on Monday, October 7, 2013 at 7:12 AM CDT: Changes headline

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