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Middle age spread increases dementia risk

Middle age spread increses risk of dementia Belly fat a risk factor

People who carry fat around their waist in middle age are at a higher risk of developing demantia later in life, new research has found.

So-called middle aged spread is already linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, but now researchers from Boston University School of Medicine say that increasing abdominal fat is also linked to lower brain volume, a risk factor for dementia.

In the study, 733 middle aged people were given a computerised tomography (CT) scan to measure abdominal or visceral fat which accumulates around the internal organs. MRI scans were used to measure brain size.

Body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference measurements were also taken.

The findings, published in the Annals of Neurology, showed that brain volume decreased as BMI increased. However, the strongest association was seen between abdominal fat and brain volume, rather than overall weight alone.

"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," said Dr. Suda Seshadri, who led the study.

"More importantly our data suggests a stronger connection between central obesity, particularly the visceral fat component of abdominal obesity, and risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease," she added.

Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society said: "We have all heard how a beer belly can be bad for our heart but this study suggests carrying excess abdominal weight could also increase your risk of getting dementia.

This is not really surprising as a large stomach is associated with high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes - all major risk factors for dementia."

An estimated 750,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia in the UK, and more than half have Alzheimer's disease. In the next 15 years, this figure is expected to increase to over a million.

This article was published on Mon 24 May 2010

Image © Knut Ekanger - Fotolia.com

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