Belly fat reduces mental performance

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Belly fat affects the cognitive skills of seniors

A high percentage of abdominal fat (visceral fat) is related to cognitive performance in old age. The larger the abdominal circumference, the lower the mental abilities of people between the ages of 60 and 70, according to South Korean researchers in the Oxford University magazine "Age and Aging".

Study director Dae Hyun Yoon from the Department of Psychiatry at the Seoul National University Hospital Healthcare System Gangnam Center and his colleagues found that a high percentage of abdominal fat in “young” seniors between the ages of 60 and 70 years with a significant impairment of cognitive performance goes along. However, the effect among the over 70-year-olds has been put into perspective again, according to the Korean researchers.

Cognitive performance decreases with increasing waist circumference The scientists Dae Hyun Yoon had examined the fat tissue of 250 study participants aged 60 years or older with the help of anthropometric measurements and computer tomography (CT). As part of the study, the researchers determined the body mass index (BMI), the waist circumference and the visceral and subcutaneous abdominal fat of the test subjects. In addition, the study participants completed various cognitive tests to determine their mental fitness. The researchers found that the subjects between the ages of 60 and 70 years with a lot of stored belly fat showed significantly less cognitive performance than normal-weight people of the same age. Dae Hyun Yoon and colleagues write that intellectual performance decreased continuously with increasing waist size. However, the connection exists only in relation to the visceral fat tissue, while the subcutaneous fat directly under the skin has hardly any influence on the cognitive performance. The high percentage of belly fat is only associated with "poor cognitive performance in adults between 60 and 70 years of age", while the mental performance of the elderly subjects was not affected by belly fat. With increasing age, the link between visceral obesity and low cognitive performance seemed to disappear again, the South Korean researchers report.

Avoiding Belly Fat To Prevent Dementia? However, the scientists were unable to provide an explanation for the discovered relationship between abdominal fat and cognitive performance in old age. A direct causal connection, for example, about certain metabolic influences could not be established. However, previous studies have already revealed a similar relationship between abdominal fat and cognitive performance, write Dae Hyun Yoon and colleagues. The researchers suspect that belly fat is more likely to disrupt the body's sugar and fat metabolism than fat tissue under the skin, which may have an impact on mental performance. To confirm the results, however, more extensive studies with significantly larger samples are required, according to the Korean researchers. But the current "study has important public health implications," Dae Hyun Yoon said, because avoiding obesity, especially "central obesity," could help prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's.

Brain function affected by obesity Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm suspect that there is a connection between brain diseases and increased body weight. Antonio Convit from Nathan Kline of the Institute for Psychiatry Research in New York also wrote in the specialist magazine "Brain" at the beginning of January that a significant reduction in certain reward and appetite centers in the cerebrum as well as considerable structural damage to the brain in overweight people was observed. Her study suggests that the inflammatory effects of obesity in the nervous system, already known from previous studies, can shrink entire brain areas. The Swedish researchers came to similar conclusions and particularly emphasized the importance of a healthy diet for health in old age. (fp)

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