Visceral Fat during Middle Age Increases Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, Study Shows

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The United States currently has over six million diagnosed Alzheimer’s cases, with projections indicating a potential doubling to 13 million in the future. Scientists suggest a concerning link between heightened visceral abdominal fat in middle age and the risk of Alzheimer’s, a debilitating neurodegenerative disease causing memory loss and cognitive decline.

Visceral fat may contribute to onset of Alzheimer’s

Visceral fat, which surrounds internal organs deep in the stomach, is linked to changes in the mind observed up to 15 years before the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, according to a recent study.

The study examined the correlation between brain MRI volumes, amyloid and tau uptake on PET scans, and various health factors such as BMI, obesity, abdominal adipose tissue and insulin resistance, in a cognitively normal midlife population. Researchers suggests that amyloid and tau proteins may disrupt communication between brain cells.

A recent study conducted by Mahsa Dolatshahi, a postdoctoral research fellow at Washington University School of Medicine, found a link between a specific type of fat and the Alzheimer’s disease protein. The study, which focused on cognitively normal individuals, is the first of its kind to explore the connection between fat and Alzheimer’s pathology. Previous studies have linked BMI with brain atrophy and an increased risk of dementia, but this study specifically examines the role of visceral and subcutaneous fat in midlife.

Inflammatory secretions from visceral fat leads to brain inflammation

In a cross-sectional study with 54 cognitively healthy participants aged 40-60 (average BMI 32), researchers conducted glucose and insulin measurements, glucose tolerance tests, and abdominal MRIs for subcutaneous and visceral fat levels. Brain MRIs assessed cortical thickness in Alzheimer’s-affected regions. PET analyzed disease pathology in 32 participants, focusing on amyloid plaques and tau tangles related to Alzheimer’s.

Researchers found a higher visceral to subcutaneous fat ratio linked to increased amyloid PET tracer uptake in the precuneus cortex, an early-influenced region in Alzheimer’s disease. This association was more pronounced in men. The study suggests that inflammatory secretions from visceral fat may contribute to brain inflammation, a key mechanism in Alzheimer’s disease.

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