Lose weight now and you could reduce risk of dementia later

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We are already aware that being overweight can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke but how many of us are aware that increased flab, particularly around the abdomen, could lead to dementia.

Now a new study carried about by Dr Sudha Seshadri from the Boston University School of Medicine has found that losing belly fat may actually help prevent you from getting dementia later in life.

“From a public health point of view, I think the immediate message is, if you aren’t as concerned about reducing belly fat for concerns of heart attack and stroke, do consider that it might also increase your risk of dementia” said Dr Seshadri.

Dr Seshadri’s research spanned almost forty years was based on more than 730 participants from the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort. The average age of the participants was 60, with 70 percent of them being female. Each person’s waist circumference, BMI and waist to hip ratio measurements were recorded.

Abdominal fat was measured using CT (computer tomography) scans as this type of scan is able to distinguish between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of the brain were taken to identify any differences in the brain. None of the patients in the study had dementia at the time.

The researchers noted that the more belly fat a person had, the less brain volume they had and this was independent of BMI. Previous studies have shown that people who had a smaller brain volume are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of Dementia than those with a larger brain volume.

“Our results confirm the inverse association of increasing BMI with lower brain volumes in older adults and with younger, middle-aged adults and extends the findings to a much larger study sample,” noted Dr. Seshadri.

“More importantly, our data suggests a stronger connection between central obesity, particularly [abdominal obesity], and risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease”.

The researchers say that more research will be required in order to back up these findings and to look deeper into why fat around the abdomen might increase the risk of dementia.

“Further studies will add to our knowledge and offer important methods of prevention” concluded Seshadri.

The study was published in the American Neurological Association’s online journal Annals of Neurology.

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