Is more body fat a risk factor for reduced thinking and memory abilities? A recent study found that increased body fat is a risk factor for impaired cognitive functions, such as processing speed in adults. When the researchers took into account cardiovascular risk factors (such as diabetes or high blood pressure) or vascular brain injury, the coalition between body fat and lower cognitive scores persisted.
This suggested other yet unconfirmed pathways that linked excess body fat to impaired cognitive function. The research is published in the journal ‘JAMA Network open’. In the study, 9,166 participants were measured through bioelectrical impedance analysis to assess their total body fat. Also, 6,733 of the participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure abdominal fat that is around the organs known as visceral fat, and the MRI also assessed vascular brain injury — areas in the brain affected by decreased blood flow to the brain.
“Our results suggest that strategies to prevent or reduce excess body fat can preserve cognitive function,” said lead author Sonia Anand, a professor of medicine at McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and a specialist in vascular medicine at Hamilton Health Sciences. . (HHS) She is also a senior scientist at the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster and HHS.
She added that “the effect of increased body fat persisted even after adjusting for the effect on increasing cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as vascular brain injury, which should prompt researchers to explore other pathways that may link excess fat to impaired cognitive function.”
Co-author Eric Smith, a neurologist, scientist and associate professor of clinical neuroscience at the University of Calgary, said that “preserving cognitive function is one of the best ways to prevent dementia in old age. This study suggests that one of the ways proper diet and exercise can prevent dementia, perhaps by maintaining a healthy weight and body fat percentage.”
Smith heads the brain core lab for the two population cohorts used for this new analysis – the Canadian Alliance for Healthy Hearts and Minds (CAHHM) and PURE Mind – a substudy of the large, international Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study. The participants were in the age range of 30 to 75 years with a mean age of approximately 58 years. Just over 56 percent were women; they all lived in Canada or Poland. The majority were of white European descent, with about 16 percent of other ethnic backgrounds. Individuals with known cardiovascular disease were excluded.
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