Does belly fat lead to dementia?

The term “dementia” refers to a much-feared condition that results in the loss of intellectual capacity and, as a consequence, the disappearance of emotional and social faculties.

Not enough is known about the causes of many types of dementia, including what is by far the most common form – Alzheimer’s disease. Based on our current understanding, the risk factors include age, genetic disposition, high blood pressure, diabetes and excess weight.

In recent years, multiple studies have pointed towards a link between excess weight and dementia. It is believed that overweight people develop cognitive impairments throughout their lives and are at an increased risk of dementia. The stage of life seems to play a critical role. While excess weight and obesity in middle age do increase the risk of contracting the condition later on, they cannot be shown to have any negative effect in later life. On the other hand, unintentional weight loss is actually considered to be one of the early symptoms of dementia.

Taking weight as a risk factor, it is not only a person’s weight and body mass index (BMI) that are important, but also their body fat distribution. Studies show that abdominal/visceral obesity – where there is an increase in the fat around the abdominal organs – is particularly closely linked to dementia. Moreover, several studies have also indicated that an increase in visceral fat is associated with a decrease in brain volume, even where there are no dementia symptoms. In turn, this harbours a risk of declining intellectual faculties as time progresses. Unlike with visceral fat, this effect has not been demonstrated in relation to subcutaneous fat.

We do not yet know enough about why excess weight and visceral obesity heighten the risk of dementia. However, excess weight and obesity are often witnessed with comorbidities such as high blood pressure and diabetes, which are risk factors in their own right. Furthermore, a person’s behaviour also plays a key role. Although excess weight frequently goes hand in hand with a sedentary lifestyle, regular physical and intellectual activities not only guard against weight problems, but also against cognitive impairments. Another point of discussion is the role of fatty tissue as a metabolic organ. Visceral fat, in particular, secretes a wide variety of hormones and messenger substances that have a major impact on body functions and could potentially be involved in the development of dementia.

Even though diagnosing excess weight is not usually a problem, it is often difficult to detect visceral obesity. That is because people with overweight do not necessarily have excess visceral fat. By the same token, people with a normal weight may also exhibit critically high levels. As visceral obesity is not just relevant in relation to dementia, but also constitutes a discrete risk factor for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it is important to diagnose.

Bioelectrical impedance analysis with the seca mBCA represents an alternative to laborious imaging procedures. It facilitates the quick and straightforward quantification of the volume of visceral fat. On account of its high patient- and user-friendliness, the seca mBCA is ideal for routine check-ups. As such, negative changes can be detected at an early stage – and suitable measures instigated. In light of the high relevance of visceral fat to health, regular check-ups also make sense from a preventive standpoint.

Excess weight and obesity always exert considerable strain on the body and have long-term consequences, some of which are serious. For this reason, good weight management is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle and safeguards physical and mental fitness, well into old age.

Saatat pitää seuraavista tarinoista