Abdominal Obesity And Cognition
New research from Ireland indicates that abdominal fat is linked to reduced cognitive function in adults age 60 and older. This finding comes from data on 5,186 adults, which the researchers from Trinity College Dublin believe to be the largest study of this nature. They noted that previous research has shown that overweight people don’t perform as well on tests of memory and visuospatial ability compared to those of normal weight. The association between mental capability and weight might be explained by an increased secretion of inflammatory markers by belly fat, which the investigators wrote has been previously linked to a higher risk of impaired cognition. Study senior author Conal Cunningham said the new findings add to emerging evidence “suggesting that obesity and where we deposit our excess weight could influence our brain health”. The team noted that in Ireland more than half of the over 50s population is classified as centrally obese, with only 16 percent of men and 26 percent of women reported to have a body mass index within the normal range.
My take? These disturbing findings from Ireland add to earlier research linking abdominal fat at midlife to development of dementia years later. For example, a study of 6,583 members of Kaiser Permanente of Northern California followed for an average of 36 years showed that women with the most abdominal obesity in midlife were nearly three times more likely to develop dementia three decades later than their peers in the study with the least abdominal fat. The research showed that having a large abdomen increased the risk of dementia even among women whose weight was normal and who had no other health risks related to dementia such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Conal Cunningham et al, “The relationship between adiposity and cognitive function in a large community-dwelling population: data from the Trinity Ulster Department of Agriculture (TUDA) ageing cohort study.” British Journal of Nutrition, July 30, 2018 doi.org/10.1017/S0007114518001848
Also in this week’s bulletin: