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Open Access Research article

The relationship between obesity and neurocognitive function in Chinese patients with schizophrenia

Xiaofeng Guo1, Zhanchou Zhang1, Qinling Wei2, Hailong Lv1, Renrong Wu1 and Jingping Zhao1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Mental Health, the Second Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, No. 139 Renmin Mid Road, Changsha, 410011, China

2 Department of Psychiatry, 3rd Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China

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BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:109  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-109

Published: 9 April 2013



Studies have reported that up to 60% of individuals with schizophrenia are overweight or obese. This study explored the relationship between obesity and cognitive performance in Chinese patients with schizophrenia.


Outpatients with schizophrenia aged 18–50 years were recruited from 10 study sites across China. Demographic and clinical information was collected. A neuropsychological battery including tests of attention, processing speed, learning/memory, and executive functioning was used to assess cognitive function, and these 4 individual domains were transformed into a neurocognitive composite z score. In addition, height and weight were measured to calculate body mass index (BMI). Patients were categorized into 4 groups (underweight, normal weight, overweight and obese) based on BMI cutoff values for Asian populations recommended by the World Health Organization.


A total number of 896 patients were enrolled into the study. Fifty-four percent of participants were overweight or obese. A higher BMI was significantly associated with lower scores on the Wechsler Memory Scale-Revised (WMS-R) Visual Reproduction subscale, the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R) Digit Symbol subscale, and the composite z score (p’s ≤ 0.024). Obese patients with schizophrenia had significantly lower scores than normal weight patients on the Trail Making Test B, the WMS-R Visual Reproduction subscale, the WAIS Digit Symbol subscale, and the composite z score (p’s ≤ 0.004).


Our study suggests that, in addition to its well established risk for various cardiometabolic conditions, obesity is also associated with decreased cognitive function in Chinese patients with schizophrenia. Future studies should explore if weight loss and management can improve cognitive function in obese patients who suffer from schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia; Cognitive function; Body mass index; Obesity; Overweight