Bulging belly now could mean dementia later

By Steve Mitchell
MSNBC contributor
March 26, 2008

Carrying a spare tire in your 40s may raise your risk of Alzheimer’s


People with a bulging waistline in mid-life could face a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s in the senior years, a new study shows.

Previous research has shown that having an apple-shaped body increases the risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease, but this is the first time it has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In the study, which was published Wednesday by the journal Neurology, people who were both obese and had a large belly were three times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia in later years than those of normal weight and belly size. The risk of dementia nearly doubled in those who were a healthy weight but still had a bulging waist, suggesting that fat accumulated around the midline is particularly unhealthy for the brain.

“The take-home message from this study is that one should not only be concerned about their weight but where they carry their fat,” said Rachel Whitmer, the lead author of the study and a research scientist with Kaiser Permanente’s division of research in Oakland, Calif.

The findings are particularly concerning in light of the rise in obesity rates in the United States, Whitmer said. More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese and about half have abdominal obesity.

On the upside

“But the good news,” Whitmer added, “is that you can do something about it.” The type of fat that collects around the abdominal region is easy to accumulate but also easy to get rid of, she said. 

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