(NaturalNews) People with large waistlines in middle age have three times the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia later in life, according to a study conducted by researchers from Kaiser Permanente and published in the journal Neurology.
Researchers measured the abdominal fat levels and body mass index of 6,583 people between the ages of 40 and 45, then checked back to see who had developed dementia by the time they reached their 70s. They found that 20 percent of participants with the largest waistlines had a 270 percent higher risk of developing dementia than the 20 percent with the lowest abdominal fat levels.
Abdominal fat appeared to increase the dementia risk even for people with a healthy overall weight. Among people with a body fat index in the normal range, those with a large waist had a 90 percent higher risk of dementia than those with a small waist. Among those who were overweight or obese, those with more abdominal fat had an 80 percent higher dementia risk than those with less.
The greatest risk came from those who had both a high body mass index and a large waistline. Those classified as overweight and with high levels of abdominal fat had a 230 percent higher risk of dementia than those with a healthy weight and a small waistline. Those who had a large waistline and were also obese had a 360 percent greater risk.
The researchers said that it was not clear why abdominal fat should be so closely linked to dementia risk. They noted that abdominal fat closely correlates with the collection around other organs in the body.
The link between dementia and obesity, while well known, is also not well understood. Some researchers have suggested that other health problems caused by obesity, including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, might be more immediate causes of the brain damage that leads to Alzheimer's disease.