Posts Tagged ‘dementia’

Abdominal Obesity Correlates With Dementia

February 16, 2011

I’m just going to dive right in with my first post.

Stephan over at Whole Health Source linked to this study on the correlation between abdominal, or central, obesity and dementia risk. Using a sample of 6,583 Kaiser patients who had their sagittal abdominal diameter (distance between the belly button and the back) measured in the 1960’s and early 70’s, the study discovered that the folks with the biggest bellies (the ones in the highest quintile of abdominal fat) were almost three times more likely to end up with dementia than the folks with the leanest midsections (the ones in the lowest quintile). The association remained strong even after the researchers factored in BMI, meaning that overall fatness by itself could not explain the increased risk. Normal weight people with bigger bellies had almost twice the incidence of dementia as normal weight people with lean midsections.

Excess abdominal fat is a bigger danger signal than excess fat on the extremities, even in an otherwise normal-weight person, because it correlates strongly with inflammation and a range of other unhealthy markers such as high triglycerides, low HDL (so-called “good” cholesterol), poor insulin sensitivity and high blood pressure, which are often lumped together under the term “Metabolic Syndrome.” In turn, Metabolic Syndrome is associated with higher rates of heart disease, type two diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and apparently dementia too.

This study doesn’t prove that abdominal obesity causes dementia, but it does provide strong evidence that the two occur hand in hand, and that abdominal obesity in middle age can predict the risk of dementia later in life. This is good news, as it means that reducing or preventing abdominal obesity through diet could have an huge positive impact on quality of life (not to mention medical expenses) as people age. It’s also further support for the idea that disease is largely voluntary – people set themselves up for either disease or health by their lifestyle choices.