Big Belly Might Lead to Dementia

Middle aged individuals who are overweight appear to be at higher risk for developing dementia later in life. A recent study has shown that being overweight (specifically in the abdominal region) in one’s forties makes them almost three times more likely to develop dementia by age 70 than healthy middle aged individuals.

6,583 individuals, all residing in northern California, and between 40-45 years of age, participated in the initial study. Around 35 years after the initial study, it was found that 16% had developed some form of dementia. “Those with the highest amount of abdominal fat were nearly three times more likely to develop dementia than those with the lowest amount of abdominal fat,” says Dr. Rachel Whitmer, author of the study.

Being generally obese, in addition to having excess abdominal fat, contributed to the risk of dementia as well. Specifically, the study showed that “those who were overweight and had a large belly were 2.3 times more likely to develop dementia than people with a normal weight and belly size. People who were both obese and had a large belly were 3.6 times more likely to develop dementia than those of normal weight and belly size. Those who were overweight or obese but did not have a large abdomen had an 80-percent increased risk of dementia”

Given the rising obesity levels in America, this finding has profound implications. Obesity, and “big-bellies,” are so common now, especially for those currently in middle age, that in thirty years or so, the levels of dementia patients could be potentially enormous compared to present levels.

Obesity is also a leading contributor to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and many other dangerous conditions. While the actual chemical reasons for the connection between dementia and obesity has not yet been uncovered, the findings of the study give further reason for people to stay healthy and keep their weight down.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Babb, Angela. Whitmer, Rachel. Neurology press release. March 2008.