Long-term obesity is a well-known cause of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. However, a new Boston University School of Medicine study suggests that excess abdominal fat may also be linked to a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
For the study, a research team led by Sudha Seshadri recruited nearly 800 adults over the age of 60 and analyzed their body mass index, waist circumference, waist to hip ratio and percentage of abdominal fat. The investigators also performed an magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on each participant to examine their total brain volume and their number of brain infarcts.
As expected, the researchers identified a strong inverse association between increasing body mass and smaller brain volume—a known risk factor for dementia.
"More importantly our data suggests a stronger connection between central obesity, particularly the visceral fat component of abdominal obesity, and risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease," said Seshadri.
While further studies need to be conducted to analyze how obesity prevention can affect dementia risk, the researchers speculate that consuming a low-fat, nutrient-rich diet can significantly improve brain health.