Thursday, March 27, 2008


’A fat belly increases the risk of dementia regardless of overall body weight, researchers say. But they found the risk factor jumped by a whopping 260 per cent for obese people.
(Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP).’

Got a bulging belly? You may face higher risk for dementia

Anyone with spare tire more vulnerable to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, researchers say

By SHERYL UBELACKER The Canadian Press
Thu. Mar 27 - 4:48 AM

"TORONTO — Carrying a spare tire on the abdomen is known to significantly boost the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but new research suggests excess belly fat in middle-age also may contribute to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia later in life.

In fact, a long-term study of more than 6,000 people found that those with the highest amount of abdominal fat in their 40s were significantly more likely to develop dementia than those with the lowest amount of fat around their mid-sections.

Having a bulging belly increased the risk of dementia regardless of whether participants had normal weight overall or were overweight or obese, as measured by body mass index (BMI), said principal investigator Rachel Whit-mer, a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente, a non-profit U.S. health plan that conducted the study.

Furthermore, the increased risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias existed independently of other health conditions, including diabetes, stroke and heart disease — and the effect did not vary by race or gender, Whitmer said from Oakland, Calif.

The study, published today in the journal Neurology, found that those who were overweight by BMI standards and also had a big belly were 2.3 times more likely to develop dementia than people with a normal weight and abdominal profile, she said.

Those who were both obese and big around the middle were 3.6 times — or a whopping 260 per cent — more likely to develop dementia than those of normal weight and belly size.

That compares to an 80 per cent higher risk for people who were overweight or obese but did not have a distended abdomen.

"So there’s two messages here," Whitmer said. "The first message is that if you are normal and you have a large belly, your risk for dementia was about the same as those who were overweight or obese who didn’t have a large belly."

"Now, if you are overweight or obese and you have a large belly, your risk really goes up."

"So this really nicely shows that the effect of the large belly was above and beyond the effect of body mass index and, in particular, the magnitude of the effect of the large belly got greater as you weighed more."

The study involved 6,583 people in northern California, aged 40 to 45, who had their abdominal fat measured between 1964 and 1973 and whose health records were followed over time.

An average of 36 years later, when participants were in their 70s, 16 per cent had been diagnosed with dementia.

Whitmer said the kind of fat that settles in the belly, known as visceral fat, has a different makeup and effects on the body than fat elsewhere in the body, which is called subcutaneous fat.
"And fat biologists know, that visceral fat, it is more lively, it is more toxic, it is more metabolically active," said Whitmer. "It secretes a lot of hormones and inflammatory compounds."

While only speculating, she suggests one or more of these inflammatory substances may be able to cross into the brain and cause damage — just as they may do to blood vessels and organs like the heart and pancreas.

"It’s not a causal study, it’s not a mechanistic study," she said.

"But I think our findings suggest there is a pathway going on that is something intrinsic to that belly size, to that belly fat, because we did take into account other diseases that are highly correlated with belly size and highly correlated with dementia."

Dr. Jean-Pierre Despres, a specialist in obesity and cardiovascular disease at Laval University, said he is not surprised to see a relationship between excess abdominal fat and dementia.

"Obviously this is an association and you don’t want to speculate too much on the mechanism behind such associations," Despres said Wednesday from Quebec City.

"But if you think about the consequences of abdominal obesity, of having fat at the wrong place, we know that having too much abdominal fat is associated with what I call a minestrone soup of abnormalities, increasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes, but also increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease."

"Now I’m learning today that on top of the risk of heart disease, the risk of diabetes, this is one more complication to add to the expanding list, which makes this extremely interesting," said Despres, who was not involved in the study.

Whitmer said the findings suggest people need to keep an eye not only on the scale but also on their waist size and where they carry any extra pounds.

But the findings don’t represent all bad news, she stressed.

"On the one hand, yes it’s a bummer that large belly is related to dementia, but this is a modifiable risk factor . . . it is actually less stubborn than the subcutaneous fat, so you can get rid of that fat with exercise and with diet."


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Anonymous said...

Not too surprising. Big bellies and diseases of civilization appear when people in primitive cultures start eating sugar, white flour and white rice. Specifically, you start to see obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, cancer, dental caries, periodontal disease, appendicitis, peptic ulcers, diverticulitis, gallstones, hemorrhoids, varicose veins and constipation.

Check it out in Gary Taubes' book. You will never look at carbohydrate-rich food in the same way again.

Mayberryfan said...

OMG, this study gives Kimmer a plausible insanity plea. It's no longer "the devil made me do it" it's the "sugar made me do it" your honor.

Curses! Foiled again!!


mariasol said...

I love this part of the "study":

"While only speculating, she suggests one or more of these inflammatory substances may be able to cross into the brain and cause damage.."

They don't KNOW, but they still make a headline as this is an absolute thruth. By the way, did the study take into account how many of the subjects with "excess belly fat" only exercise their brain by watching wrestling on TV?

I believe you have to use your brain to keep it in shape, pretty much the same as with your body.

MrsMenopausal said...

According to this I'm doomed. I'm an apple shape when overweight. I also have about 5 minutes left to my 40s to correct this. Okay, a little more than 5 minutes but not much more than that.
Is this why I can't find my keys, call my kids by the pets' names, and forget appointments? I've been blaming menopause.
This is scary stuff. I hope part of the dementia at least leaves me believing I'm a young hottie with perky .. uh, personality traits. :/
My blog: Weighing The Facts

Medusa said...

"I hope part of the dementia at least leaves me believing I'm a young hottie with perky .. uh, personality traits. :/ "

ROFLMAO! MrsM, you're one funny chick!

Anonymous said...

But didn't agriculture develop less than 12,000 years ago? Just wondering what the timeline looks like. The not-exactly-slim Venus of Willendorf is dated to 30,000 years ago, and if that's a realistic representation of a real female body from that time, certainly obesity predates refined carbs.

Just reading, don't really know myself -- I'm not THAT old! :}

Anonymous said...

MrsM! It's your birthday today?? Whenever, here's wishing you a happy one!

pssst! You'll always be younger than me and a whole bunch of other people! :}

Anonymous said...

Yucky said, "The not-exactly-slim Venus of Willendorf is dated to 30,000 years ago, and if that's a realistic representation of a real female body from that time, certainly obesity predates refined carbs."

Good point. According to Taubes, in 1857 John Hanning Speke found that Abyssinian nobility in West Africa fattened their wives to "such an extent that they could not stand upright." The tribes that did this relied on milk to fatten their women.

Of course, you would need domesticated animals to get milk. But at least it proves that the carbs don't have to be refined.

MrsMenopausal said...

Thanks YY but it's not my bd (at least not that I can remember. ~~whimper~~ so may it is. lol). My bd came and went. As fast as the years are going by I'm sure this last year of my 40's is going to feel like approximately 5 minutes long.

bluesuede said...

Umm. I was going to comment, but I forgot why I'm here ...

Medusa said...

Ha! Bluesuede, I feel your pain :^)

Anonymous said...

well that does it! :/

I am moving to West Africa to live with the Abyssinian nobility so that I can be really popular.


Anonymous said...

As a recovering anorexic, these type of articles don't help because of my intense fear of becoming fat. In my distorted thinking process, I think," Well, I can't stop starving myself bc if I become fat I'll go crazy." I realize that's completely irrational but for those like Darlene who visit this site, I'm not sure if they would be able to differentiate between their rational and irrational thoughts.