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Abdominal Fat Boosts Dementia Risk
Date:3/26/2008

Potbellies in midlife may flood brain with toxic substances, researcher says

WEDNESDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- A potbelly in middle age more than triples the risk of senility decades later, according to a large study that pinpoints a new link between obesity and dementia.

"The take-home message is that it's not only what you weigh, but it's where you carry your weight in midlife," said study author Rachel Whitmer, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, in Oakland, Calif.

The good news? Lose weight, and you may be able to reduce the increased risk, she said.

Researchers have been tracking the mental fallout of obesity for years. In 2005, Whitmer and her colleagues reported that people who were fatter in middle age were as much as 74 percent more likely to develop dementia as senior citizens.

An estimated 10 million American baby boomers will develop Alzheimer's disease in their lifetime, according to research released earlier this month, while another study found that more than 20 percent of seniors have memory loss not classified as dementia.

In the new study, researchers looked specifically at belly fat, checking to see if it posed a risk in people even if they were otherwise not overweight.

The study examined 6,583 Kaiser Permanente health-care plan members between the ages of 40 and 45 who had their abdominal fat measured in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The researchers followed up to see what happened to them between 1994 and 2006, when they reached their 70s and beyond.

The findings were published in the March 26 online issue of Neurology.

Overall, 16 percent of those studied developed dementia, also known as senility. Researchers found that obese people who had the most abdominal fat in their 40s were 3.6 times more likely to develop dementia than those with the least amount of abdominal fat.

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