A new study correlates belly fat in one’s 40s and 50s to an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis later on.
But it’s not just any fat that’s the culprit.
It’s the fat stored deep in the abdomen that’s known as visceral fat – as opposed to subcutaneous fat, which resides just underneath the skin.
Researchers have begun unpacking the effects of visceral fat, which surrounds the organs, and have found that the inflammation it sets off can affect the brain and be a harbinger of Alzheimer’s early stages decades before they appear.
“We’ve known for a while that as the belly size gets larger, the memory centres in the brain get smaller,” Alzheimer’s disease researcher Dr Richard Isaacson, a preventive neurologist at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases of Florida who was not involved in the study, told CNN.
“This study shows a brain imaging marker of neuroinflammation which I had not seen before.
“The brain imaging links the belly fat, or visceral fat, to the brain dysfunction through an inflammatory cascade.”
The findings was presented at the 2023 annual conference of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in Chicago, Illinois in the United States.
The researchers analysed 54 cognitively healthy study participants aged 40 to 60, whose average body mass index (BMI) was 32.
Those who had a higher ratio of visceral to subcutaneous fat had higher levels of the amyloid protein, which is associated with Alzheimer’s, in the part of the brain where the disease manifests when it is first emerging.
That fat also appeared to spark brain inflammation – another Alzheimer’s trigger – and it was all more prevalent in men than women.
It was related to changes in the brain a full 15 years before the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s appeared.
On the upside, visceral fat is easier to lose, responding well to diet and exercise changes, study senior author and Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis associate professor of radiology Dr Cyrus Raji told CNN. – dpa