The Association Between Belly Fat and Cognitive Decline

More than 60 million people globally are currently affected by Alzheimer’s disease, and projections suggest this number could rise to 78 million in the next seven years. Given these figures, it’s crucial to allocate resources towards mitigating the disease. Recent insights suggest that addressing belly fat could be a key strategy in reducing Alzheimer’s risk.

The human body contains two types of fat: subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat accounts for 90% of body fat and is the layer you can pinch with your fingers. Visceral fat, on the other hand, is hidden deep within the abdomen, encasing the internal organs and is not pinchable. Experts consider visceral fat to be the more hazardous of the two, as its accumulation is linked to a higher risk of various health problems, including diabetes and potentially Alzheimer’s disease.

Recently, researchers focused on investigating the connection between visceral fat and Alzheimer’s disease. Unlike previous studies that correlated BMI with brain degeneration and a heightened dementia risk, this new study is the first to connect a specific type of fat to Alzheimer’s disease proteins in individuals who are cognitively normal. The analysis included 54 adults that were cognitively health and aged between 40 and 60, with a BMI that averaged 32. The researchers measured several health indicators, as well as levels of subcutaneous and visceral fat.

According to the results published in the journal Aging and Disease, the study found that excess visceral fat correlated with increased levels of amyloid, an abnormal protein, in areas of the brain that are among the first affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, the research uncovered a relationship between higher amounts of visceral fat and the shrinkage of gray matter in regions of the brain crucial for memory, a process known as brain atrophy. This observation is critical as brain atrophy serves as another significant biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease.

The study revealed that individuals with greater amounts of visceral fat typically exhibited more inflammation in extensive white matter tracts within the brain. White matter is essential for creating connections between brain cells and the rest of the nervous system, and any interference can impair the brain’s communication with other areas and the body. Additionally, the researchers observed that male participants showed a stronger correlation between belly fat and amyloid levels, likely due to their higher visceral fat compared to women.

Given that Alzheimer’s disease can begin to develop in the brain two decades before symptoms first emerge, the researchers intend to investigate the long-term effects of visceral fat by conducting follow-up studies with the participants. This approach underscores the necessity for further research to validate their initial findings.

To view the original scientific study click below:
Alzheimer Disease Pathology and Neurodegeneration in Midlife Obesity: A Pilot Study