Hidden belly fat in midlife is linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study reveals.
Hidden abdominal fat is related to changes in the brain up to 15 years before the earliest memory loss symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease occur.
The research, by the Radiology Society of North America, concluded that visceral fat should be a treatment target to reduce the risk of future brain inflammation and dementia.
Visceral fat is the fat surrounding the internal organs deep in the belly.
Dr. Mahsa Dolatshahi said: “Even though there have been other studies linking BMI with brain atrophy or even a higher dementia risk, no prior study has linked a specific type of fat to the actual Alzheimer’s disease protein in cognitively normal people.
“Similar studies have not investigated the differential role of visceral and subcutaneous fat, especially in terms of Alzheimer’s amyloid pathology, as early as midlife.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are more than six million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million.
One in every five women and one out of 10 men will develop Alzheimer’s disease in their lifetime.
In the UK there are currently 900,000 people living with dementia expected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.
To get their results the team studied data from 54 cognitively healthy participants, ranging in age from 40 to 60 years old, with an average BMI of 32.
The participants underwent glucose and insulin measurements as well as glucose tolerance tests.
The team discovered that the relationship between fat and Alzheimer’s was worse in men than in women.
The researchers also found that higher visceral fat measurements are related to an increased burden of inflammation in the brain.
Professor Cyrus Raji said: “This study highlights a key mechanism by which hidden fat can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
“It shows that such brain changes occur as early as age 50, on average—up to 15 years before the earliest memory loss symptoms of Alzheimer’s occur.
“By moving beyond body mass index in better characterizing the anatomical distribution of body fat on MRI, we now have a uniquely better understanding of why this factor may increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker