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Issue 54: Can Being Fat Make You Lose Your Mind?

At some point in our lives, we have probably declared that carrying around a few extra pounds is driving us crazy. We can’t fit into the jeans we once used to or that little black dress is a bit snug these days. Arrrrrgh! Frustrating, right?

While these scenarios certainly can cause some angst and maybe a bit of anger, too, they are not even near the kind of mind-altering effects that can truly result from being overweight. In case you have not heard, belly fat not only can put a person at risk for diabetes and heart disease, but may also put a person at risk for dementia.

And a strong indicator may appear while a person is in his or her forties. A person’s sagittal abdominal diameter or SAD, otherwise known as a person’s belly size, is directly related to a person’s risk of dementia in old age—according to a recent study in Neurology. The study indicated that the bigger a person’s SAD is while in his or her forties, the greater the chance for mental deterioration in old age.

You may be wondering how much greater that chance for mental fading is. The findings indicated that if you are overweight, but don’t have a fat belly, then your risk is 1.8 times higher than that of your skinnier colleagues. If, however, you are overweight and do have a fat belly (an apple shape), then your risk is 2.3 to 3.6 times higher than that of your skinny friends.

But how can excess belly fat affect your brain? Glad you asked!

Belly fat may make up less than 5 percent of total body fat, but it can pack a negative health wallop. Since it is in close proximity to the heart, pancreas, and other vital organs, that jelly belly can produce all kinds of inflammatory compounds contributing to heart disease, diabetes, and, now, dementia.

Tongiian You, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of exercise and nutrition sciences at the University of Buffalo, says, “Visceral fat releases higher amounts of those cytokines, especially interleukin 6, that cause cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Inflammation is a contributing factor to dementia, so that’s a reasonable link.”

What’s more is that you don’t have to have a hugely fat belly to qualify for this new-found risk. A 40-inch (or more) waist for men and a 34.5-inch (or more) waist for women is more than enough to put them at risk for future dementia.

Now that’s enough to drive you crazy—and is yet another reason to lose those extra pounds around the middle.


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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