A new study has found that a measure of belly fat is associated with reduced cognitive function in adults over the age of 60.
The findings have significant implications as the global prevalence of dementia is predicted to increase to 81.1 million people by 2040.
Previous studies have found that people who are overweight do not perform as well on tests of memory and visuospatial ability compared to those who are normal weight. However, it was not well known if this was true in older adults.
Researchers from Dublin’s Trinity College studied data from 5000 elderly adults from Ireland and Northern Ireland, and they discovered that a higher hip-to-waist ratio was associated with reduced cognitive function.
The researchers said this could be explained by an increased secretion of inflammatory markers by belly fat, which has been previously associated with a higher risk of impaired cognition.
Given the high prevalence of overweight and obesity in the older population and the economic and social burden of cognitive dysfunction, the results suggest that reducing obesity and exposure to obeso-genic risk factors could offer a cost-effective public health strategy for the prevention of cognitive decline.
“While we have known for some time that obesity is associated with negative health consequences our study adds to emerging evidence suggesting that obesity and where we deposit our excess weight could influence our brain health,” explained Professor Conal Cunningham from Trinity College. “This has significant public health implications.”
Are you worried your belly fat may affect your cognitive abilities later in life? Does the news make you more motivated to pursue a healthy lifestyle?
Read the Trinity College study.
Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.