Hidden Belly Fat Linked to Developing Alzheimer's Disease, Study Says

In the findings revealed by the Radiological Society of North America, visceral fat is related to changes in the brain

<p>Getty</p> Woman struggles with weight loss


Woman struggles with weight loss

Having hidden abdominal fat could increase middle-aged people's chances of developing Alzheimer's disease, a new study says.

In the findings shared by Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), researchers found that visceral fat — which is hidden deep within the abdominal cavity and surrounds internal organs — "is related to changes in the brain up to 15 years before the earliest memory loss symptoms of Alzheimer's disease occur."

In RSNA's press release for the study, "researchers analyzed data from 54 cognitively healthy participants, ranging in age from 40 to 60 years old, with an average BMI [body mass index] of 32. The participants underwent glucose and insulin measurements, as well as glucose tolerance tests." The volume of visceral fat was then measured using an abdominal MRI.

According to the study, another "MRI measured the cortical thickness of brain regions that are affected by Alzheimer's disease. The scan "was used to examine disease pathology," with a focus on finding an accumulation of protein fragments between neurons that leads to Alzheimer's disease.

"Even though there have been other studies linking BMI with brain atrophy or even a higher dementia risk, no prior study has linked a specific type of fat to the actual Alzheimer's disease protein in cognitively normal people," Mahsa Dolatshahi, the study author and a post-doctoral research fellow at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis said, per the release.

"Similar studies have not investigated the differential role of visceral and subcutaneous fat, especially in terms of Alzheimer's amyloid pathology, as early as midlife," she continued.

Related: FDA Fully Approves New Drug That Can Slow Progression of Alzheimer's Disease

According to the Cleveland Clinic, visceral fat is belly fat found deep within your abdominal cavity. It surrounds important organs, including your stomach, liver and intestines. This type of fat is more dangerous to your health.

"Several pathways are suggested to play a role," Dolatshahi added. "Inflammatory secretions of visceral fat — as opposed to potentially protective effects of subcutaneous fat — may lead to inflammation in the brain, one of the main mechanisms contributing to Alzheimer's disease."

Cyrus Raji, an associate professor of radiology and neurology, and director of neuromagnetic resonance imaging at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (MIR), also said in the press release that this type of fat isn't always detectable using BMI.

"By moving beyond body mass index in better characterizing the anatomical distribution of body fat on MRI, we now have a uniquely better understanding of why this factor may increase risk for Alzheimer's disease," he shared.

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Related: Where You Live Might Increase Your Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s, New Research Says

According to the Alzheimer's Association, an estimated 6.7 million Americans over the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer's disease today. By 2060, the number could increase to over 13 million.

In July another study concluded that where you live may predict your likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s.

The disease is most prevalent in Miami-Dade County in Florida, Baltimore (which is its own county) in Maryland, and Bronx County in New York, according to a new study that was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in Amsterdam this month.

The study also looked at states and found that California, Florida, and Texas had the highest number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, while Maryland (12.9%), New York (12.7%), and Mississippi (12.5%) had the highest percentage of diagnoses.

The data may be driven by the socioeconomic and demographic landscape of those locations, the study’s authors said.

“Counties/states with more people aged [over] 85 [years] and minorities will have a higher estimate for the prevalence of Alzheimer's dementia,” Dr. Klodian Dhana, assistant professor in the division of geriatrics and palliative medicine at Rush University Medical Center, told Health

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