• Cognitive function;
  • dementia risk;
  • obesity;
  • weight loss


High adiposity in middle age is associated with higher dementia risk. The association between weight loss and cognitive function in older adults is still controversial. A meta-analysis was undertaken to estimate the effectiveness of intentional weight loss on cognitive function in overweight and obese adults. A structured strategy was used to search randomized and non-randomized studies reporting the effect of intentional and significant weight loss on cognitive function in overweight and obese subjects. Information on study design, age, nutritional status, weight-loss strategy, weight lost and cognitive testing was extracted. A random-effect meta-analysis was conducted to obtain summary effect estimates for memory and attention–executive domains. Twelve studies met inclusion criteria. Seven were randomized trials and the remaining five included a control group. A low-order significant effect was found for an improvement in cognitive performance with weight loss in memory (effect size 0.13, 95% CI 0.00–0.26, P = 0.04) and attention/executive functioning (effect size 0.14, 95% CI 0.01–0.27, P < 0.001). Studies were heterogeneous in study design, sample selection, weight-loss intervention and assessment of cognitive function. Weight loss appears to be associated with low-order improvements in executive/attention functioning and memory in obese but not in overweight individuals.