Abdominal obesity in middle-age raises dementia risk in later life

October 14, 2008

Abdominal obesity or having an "apple-shaped," rather than a "pear-shaped" body at middle-age seems to increase the risk of dementia as you age, California researchers from Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, in Oakland report and the link between abdominal obesity and increased dementia risk doesn’t seem to be due to overall body weight and the presence of diabetes or cardiovascular disease; simply put – a big belly in middle-age is linked to dementia as you age.
The investigators assessed weight, waist measurements, and other factors, in 6583 men and women who entered the study between 1964 and 1973. Over 36 years of follow-up, 1049 of these men and women developed dementia. The researchers found that, compared with subjects with the least amount of body fat, those with the highest levels of abdominal obesity had nearly a 3-fold increased risk of dementia in analyses that factored in the effect of age, gender, race, education, marital status, diabetes, high blood lipids (fats), high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.
Overweight and obesity combined with high levels of abdominal fat, increased risk of dementia by 2.3-fold and 3.6-fold, respectively, whereas overweight and obesity combined with low abdominal fat carried about a 1.8-fold increased risk of dementia -- a risk level slightly lower than that identified among participants of normal weight and high abdominal fat. The study is published in the September 30, 2008 issue of the journal Neurology.

Commentary by Jerry Hickey, R.Ph.; A study reported this week from the University of Wisconsin-Madison may illustrate why. A headline dealing with the study read “Overeating Makes Brain Go Haywire” demonstrating that overeating leads to a cascade of events that activate a usually dormant immune system pathway in the brain that can lead to inflammation and cellular damage.