Sunday, April 06, 2008

Excess Belly and your Mental Faculties in Later Life

Kaiser Permanente performed a study that spanned nearly thirty years. About six thousand patients between the ages of 40-45 had their belly fat measured from 1964 through 1973. As these patients aged into their seventies between the years of 1994 and 2006, many suffered from some form of dementia. Researchers found that the “apple” shape was not just an indicator for heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes, but was also a good indicator for dementia in later life.

Interestingly, this study found that the severity of an individual’s dementia increased incrementally with the amount of belly fat the individual had when they were in their forties. Also, researchers found that patients who were not obese by weight standards, but had excess belly fat were just as likely to suffer from an increased risk of dementia as those that were obese in general.

Researchers found no correlation between dementia and other body fat. So why is belly fat so dangerous? Belly fat has far more toxins stored in it than other body fat, and it is theorized that belly fat has more toxins due to its proximity to major body organs. Belly fat releases significant amounts of unhealthy chemical compounds, which may increase body inflammation, constrict blood vessels, or simply trigger other unhealthy disease processes that damage brain cells.

Although researchers are clearly not sure exactly how belly fat leads to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, they are sure of the relationship between increased mid section girth and increased risk of dementia. These findings are especially distressing due to the growing number of obese Americans. If other studies confirm Kaiser Permanente’s results, we may be forced to consider dementia a consequence of obesity or belly fat in some individuals.

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