Belly Fat Linked to Alzheimer’s in New Study

Belly fat could cause a loss of volume in the brain and increase the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, according to a new study.

That spare tire around your midriff could affect your brain function later in life, according to a new study by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Scientists performed CT scans of the abdomen and MRI scans of the brain on more than 700 men and women with an average age of 60. The CT measured both visceral (deep) belly fat and subcutaneous fat, which lies right below the skin. Findings published in the Annals of Neurology showed that the more belly fat a person had, the lower the person’s brain volume was.

Although researchers did not follow the participants to see whether they developed dementia, study researcher Dr. Sudha Seshadri told WebMD, ”smaller brain volume is associated with poor cognitive function on testing and a greater risk of dementia on follow-up.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and affects about 5.3 million Americans. As obesity rates in the U.S. continue to rise, the latest findings could indicate a future rise in the loss of cognitive abilities among people who struggle with their weight. Previous studies have shown that obesity after age 55 increases the risk of dementia, including a study out of Sweden in late 2009 that suggests middle-aged women with excess belly fat may face a higher risk of dementia as they age. Excess visceral fat around the abdomen also increases the risk of heart attack and heart disease, research shows.

William Thies, PhD, chief medical and scientific officer at the Alzheimer’s Association, told WebMD, “The key message in this [latest] study is another reason for people to keep good control over the factors that influence their heart health — such as body weight, blood sugar, and blood pressure — as an important way to also keep their brain healthy as they age, and possibly reduce their risk for cognitive decline and dementia.”


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