Women's health * 50+ health * Healthy living * Weight loss

Big bottoms linked to memory loss in women

Big bottoms linked to memory loss in women 'Pear-shaped' women suffer more than those 'apple-shaped'

The more a woman weighs, the worse her memory will be as she gets older. And this is especially true if the extra fat is mainly found on her hips and bottom (so-called "pear-shaped") rather than her waist ("apple-shaped"), new research has found.

Nearly 9,000 women aged between 65 and 79 were scored on a 100-point memory test, and results showed that for every 1 point increase in a woman's Body Mass Index there was a 12 point drop in her memory score.

In pear-shaped women the effect was even greater. This could be related to the type of fat deposited around the hips versus the waist. Study leader Diana Kerwin explained that "obesity is bad, but its effects are worse depending on where the fat is located."

Previous research has shown that different types of fat can have different effects on the body, affecting insulin resistance, blood pressure and the release of some hormones. For instance, fat around the waist is thought to increase the amount of oestrogen - the hormone that naturally dips after the menopause and which is thought to help protect the brain from deterioration.

"We need to find out if one kind of fat is more detrimental than the other, and how it affects brain function," said Dr Kerwin. "The fat may contribute to the formation of plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease or a restricted blood flow to the brain."

Although it is not possible for a woman to change how her body stores fat, it is possible to reduce the amount.

"If we know from her waist-to-hip ratio that she's carrying excess fat on her hips, we might be more aggressive with weight loss," Dr Kerwin said. "We can't change where your fat is located, but having less of it is better."

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

This article was published on Thu 15 July 2010

Image © yummy - Fotolia.com

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