Belly Fat Increases Your Risk Of Dementia

Does Belly Fat Make You Dumb?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

Forgetful Old ManIn last week’s “Healh Tips From the Professor” I told you that abdominal obesity (otherwise known as “belly fat“) increases your risk of dying from both heart disease and cancer.

But you probably knew that already.

This week I’m going to tell you about a recent study that breaks new ground and should really grab your attention.

Belly Fat Increases Your Risk Of Dementia

This week’s study shows that abdominal obesity dramatically increases your risk of developing dementia as you age (RA Whitmer et al, Neurology, 71: 1057-1064, 2008).

This study involved 6,583 members of Kaiser Permanente of Northern California, ages 40 to 45, who had their abdominal obesity measured between 1964 and 1973. The investigators then pulled their medical records between 1994 and 2006 when they were between 73 and 87 years old and asked how many of them had dementia.

The results may shock you.

The participants were divided into five groups based on their abdominal circumference. Those with the largest abdominal circumference were nearly 3 times more likely to have developed dementia than those with the smallest abdominal circumference. And that was after the data were adjusted for age, sex, race, education, diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, stroke and heart disease – all factors that are known to affect the risk of dementia.

Belly Fat Is Worse Than Overall Obesity

Interestingly enough the abdominal circumference was a better predictor of dementia risk than was BMI, the most frequently used measure of obesity.

  • Those subjects who had high abdominal obesity and normal BMI had a 2-fold increased risk of developing dementia
  • Those subjects who were obese but had normal abdominal circumference had only an 80% increased risk of developing dementia.
  • Of course, those people who were both obese and had a large belly were the worst off – they had almost a 4-fold increased risk of developing dementia.

So where you store your fat is more important than the total amount of fat, but you probably knew that already.

You Can Reduce Your Risk Of Dementia

Now let’s get to the question that I’m sure that many of you are dying to ask me: “If I don’t like what I see when I look into the mirror, am I doomed to develop dementia when I get older?”

The answer is no. Most experts feel that the effects of abdominal obesity are reversible.

But the time to act is now!

If you wait until you get older, you might just forget that you ever read this article.

The Bottom Line

  • The bad news is that belly fat increases your risk of developing dementia as you get older by as much as 3-fold.
  • The good news is that dementia is not inevitable. You can reverse the increased risk of dementia by losing the belly fat

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Abdominal Fat Shortens Your Lifespan

Your Belly Fat Could Be Killing You

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

Belly FatYou’ve probably already heard about the dangers of abdominal obesity (otherwise known as “belly fat“). You’ve probably heard that it increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

But did you know that your belly fat could be killing you? And, the weirdest part is that your belly fat could be killing you even if you are at ideal body weight (more about that in a minute).

Abdominal Fat Shortens Your Lifespan

A group of scientists at the National Institutes of Health recently analyzed data collected from 44,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study over a 16-year period and asked if abdominal obesity affected their death rates from heart disease and cancer (Zhang et al, Circulation, 117: 1658-1667, 2008).

The answer was a clear-cut yes!

The study showed that women with a waist circumference of 35 inches were 2X more likely to die from heart disease and cancer than women with a waist circumference of 28 inches – even if they were at ideal body weight.

Abdominal Fat Can Kill You Even If Your Weight Is In The Normal Range

You might be asking “How could those women be at ideal body weight and still have abdominal obesity?”

There is a natural tendency to lose muscle mass as we age. When we add in the inactivity associated with the American lifestyle that loss of muscle mass is accelerated and the muscle is replaced with fat. Thus, it is actually possible in today’s world to have both normal weight and abdominal obesity – and that is not a good thing!

Of course, the women who were both overweight and had abdominal obesity were even more likely to die from heart disease or cancer. So weight control is not just about looking good in your bathing suit – abdominal obesity is a killer!

However, the good news is that you can do something about abdominal obesity. With exercise and a controlled calorie, high protein diet you can replace that fat with muscle (See my previous article “Do High Protein Diets Reduce Fat And Preserve Muscle?).

The Bottom Line

  • Belly Fat may double the risk of dying from heart disease and cancer in women. The statistics are likely to be similar in men.
  • Because both inactivity and the normal aging process cause us to lose muscle and replace it with fat, many of us have excess belly fat even when we are not overweight.
  • Combining a calorie controlled, high protein diet with exercise can help reverse the process and replace that excess fat with muscle.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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