Larger Waist Circumference Could Lead to Dementia

Obesity can have extremely damaging consequences on one’s health. The different co-morbidities of obesity claim about 350,000 lives every year in the United States. Obesity rates are astronomically increasing in America. More than 50% of the population suffer from obesity. Above 40 million suffer from obesity. A good 3 million people are morbidly obese in the United States.

A larger belly is often the first visible sign of excess fat in the body. Increasing waist circumference is increasingly linked to heart disease and diabetes. The risks multiply many times especially in middle age. New studies have established the fact that increased belly fat in 40s can lead to dementia later when the individual reaches 70.

Dementia is the loss of brain function that can occur with certain diseases. It affects both motor and cognitive skills. Memory, thinking, language, judgment and behavior are affected by it.

The study which is behind the said inference was conducted on 6583 people between the ages 40 and 45 and residing in Northern California. It was published in the online issue of Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The subjects got their waist circumference measured. 36 years later, about 16% of the subjects with larger belly were found to have dementia. The study found that those with an extreme concentration of fat around the midriff were three times more likely to develop it than those with a lower amount of abdominal obesity.

In the United States, as already mentioned, more than 50% of the population are overweight and it is understood that more than 50 percent of the adults have the unhealthy abdominal fat. The study author Rachael A. Whitmer, Phd , a research scientist of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, CA opines that the mechanisms behind the connection between belly fat and dementia is yet to be fully unraveled. A lot of research is due in the said area.

The study revealed that a pear shaped body would be far better than an apple shaped one. Obese people without belly fat had only 0.8 times increased risk of dementia as compared to ones who had belly fat. Overweight individuals with increased waist circumference were 2.3 times more likely to develop dementia than people with normal weight and belly size. Obese individuals with abdominal fat were 3.6 times more likely to develop dementia than those with normal weight and belly size.

This was the first time any study had revealed such a connection. The study categorized several high risk groups who were more prone to abdominal obesity. This included women, individuals with hypertension, non-whites, individuals with elevated cholesterol levels, diabetics, smokers and individuals with education lesser than that of high school.

The researchers were of the opinion that the study being essentially observational in nature had certain limitations. The connection between larger waist circumference and dementia could be not caused by belly fat itself. Rather the characteristic health related behavior associated with abdominal obesity could actually be behind it. But beyond doubt the study emphasized the link between central obesity and detrimental changes in the behavior of the brain leading to dementia.


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