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NMU 99 – Higher Abdominal Fat Linked to Increased Risk of Cognitive Decline in Aging

Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 99 (August 8, 2018)

with Dr. James Meschino


Topic: Higher Abdominal Fat Linked to Increased Risk of Cognitive Decline in Aging

Source: British Journal of Nutrition (July 2018)


An important study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition in July 2018.  The study lends further support to previous studies showing that being overweight increases the risk of cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease as a person gets older. In this study, researchers examined over 5,000 individuals who were over the age of 60. The participants underwent a series of neuropsychological and memory assessment tests, as well as a physical exam and blood work analysis. The study clearly showed with higher abdominal fat (higher waist-to-hip ratio WHR) was strongly associated with reduced cognitive function. These individuals also had higher inflammatory markers in their blood analysis and a higher hemoglobin A1c reading (HbA1c).

Previous studies have shown that abdominal fat secretes inflammatory chemicals (cytokines) that directly increase brain inflammation that promotes brain damage associated with dementia and cognitive decline.  A key blood marker for this kind of inflammation is the high-specific C-Reactive Protein blood test (hs-CRP). As well, it has long been established that higher blood sugar levels and diabetes increase the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. When blood sugar is elevated, it tends to sugar-coat the hemoglobin in our red blood cells. The sugar-coated hemoglobin forms crystals that damage blood vessels throughout the body, including the brain, and triggers inflammation of blood vessels, brain cells, and other tissues. The amount of sugar-coated hemoglobin in our blood is called the HbA1c blood test. In this current study, a higher HbA1c was strongly linked to reduced cognitive function, which was also most notably found in those with higher levels of abdominal fat.

The study showed that being overweight itself may not be a key risk factor for age-related cognitive decline, but if the excess weight is concentrated in the abdominal area (increased belly fat), then the risk appears to be quite significant. The researchers suggest that is wise for those who have excess belly fat to reduce it, and to have their blood work checked to see if their levels of C-reactive protein and/or HbA1c is creeping into the dangerous range that is linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is that excess belly fat is reversible in most cases through prudent dietary practices and regular physical activity.

I’ve included the research studies cited here in the text below.



1. Ntlholang O et al. The relationship between adiposity and cognitive function in a large community-dwelling population: data from the Trinity Ulster Department of Agriculture (TUDA) ageing cohort study. British J Nutr. 2018.


2. C-Reactive Protein and Cognitive Decline: in journal of Dement Geriatr Cogn Dis Extra (2016)


3. Central Obesity and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in metabolic syndrome: Int J Obesity (2005)


Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,

Dr. Meschino

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