Study Reveals Link Between Abdominal Fat and Cognitive Function in High-Risk Alzheimer’s Patients


A recent study conducted by researchers from Rutgers Health has shed light on the significant impact of abdominal fat on brain health and cognitive function, particularly in middle-aged individuals at high risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Published in the journal Obesity, the study underscores the importance of examining fat distribution in the pancreas, liver, and abdomen in understanding cognitive decline associated with familial history of Alzheimer’s.

Led by Sapir Golan Shekhtman, a Ph.D. student at the Joseph Sagol Neuroscience Center at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel, and overseen by Michal Schnaider Beeri, the director of the Herbert and Jacqueline Krieger Klein Alzheimer’s Research Center at Rutgers Brain Health Institute, the study involved the examination of 204 healthy middle-aged offspring of individuals with Alzheimer’s-dementia.

Using MRI scans, the researchers assessed fat accumulation in abdominal organs among the participants. The findings revealed a notable association between elevated levels of pancreatic fat and decreased cognition and brain volumes, particularly among middle-aged men at high risk of Alzheimer’s disease. These results indicate a potential sex-specific connection between distinct abdominal fat stores and brain health.

Beeri, who holds the Krieger Klein Endowed Chair in Neurodegeneration Research at BHI, highlighted the significance of these findings, stating, “Among middle-aged men at high risk of Alzheimer’s disease, elevated pancreatic fat levels were associated with decreased cognition and brain volumes, indicating a potential sex-specific connection between distinct abdominal fat stores and brain health.”

Abdominal Fat Causes Cognitive Decline

Obesity is recognized as a significant risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia, with varying implications across genders.

The study challenges the conventional use of body mass index (BMI) as the primary measure for assessing obesity-related cognitive risks, emphasizing the limitations of BMI in capturing body fat distribution and addressing gender differences.

Shekhtman emphasized the significance of their findings, stating, “Our results reveal stronger correlations compared to those observed between BMI and cognition, suggesting that abdominal fat stores, rather than BMI, pose a risk factor for diminished cognitive function and increased dementia risk.”

These findings provide valuable insights into the complex relationship between abdominal fat distribution and cognitive function, particularly in individuals at high risk of Alzheimer’s disease. They underscore the need for targeted interventions and further exploration of gender-specific approaches to address the impact of abdominal fat on brain health.

The study contributes to advancing our understanding of the role of abdominal fat in cognitive decline and dementia risk, paving the way for future research and interventions aimed at mitigating the adverse effects of abdominal fat on brain health. As efforts continue to unravel the complexities of Alzheimer’s disease and related cognitive disorders, studies like these offer promising avenues for early detection and intervention strategies.

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