New research suggests that inflammation caused by belly fat may be associated with the early development of Alzheimer’s disease, even decades before symptoms appear. The study indicates that as belly size increases, the memory centers in the brain decrease in size. Brain imaging has revealed a link between visceral fat, or hidden belly fat, and brain dysfunction through an inflammatory cascade.
The study focused on individuals in their 40s and 50s and found that those with a higher amount of hidden belly fat had increased levels of amyloid, an abnormal protein associated with Alzheimer’s, in a part of the brain known to be one of the earliest sites of the disease. The presence of beta amyloid plaques and tau tangles are key indicators of Alzheimer’s progression.
Interestingly, the study also revealed a sex difference, with men exhibiting a higher correlation between belly fat and amyloid compared to women. This can be attributed to men generally having more visceral fat than women. Additionally, a connection was observed between deep belly fat and brain atrophy, particularly in the hippocampus, which is crucial for memory function.
The researchers also found that individuals with higher amounts of visceral fat often experienced inflammation in widespread white matter tracts in the brain. The disruption of these tracts affects the brain’s ability to effectively communicate with various regions and the rest of the nervous system.
While the brain changes identified in the study were modest, they signal potential developments in detecting early signs of Alzheimer’s pathology. By identifying this link between belly fat and Alzheimer’s, interventions can potentially be implemented at an earlier stage to mitigate the risk.
Q: What is visceral fat?
A: Visceral fat is fat that is stored deep within the abdomen, surrounding vital organs. It is considered more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat.
Q: How does visceral fat differ from subcutaneous fat?
A: Subcutaneous fat is the fat we can see and feel under the skin. Visceral fat, on the other hand, cannot be easily measured or touched as it is located deeper within the body.
Q: What is the role of insulin resistance in visceral fat inflammation?
A: Visceral fat is associated with insulin resistance, a condition where the body’s cells do not respond well to insulin. This can lead to inflammation in the body and the brain, contributing to various chronic diseases.