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A bigger belly in your 40s and 50s linked to early signs of Alzheimer’s disease

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Inflammation caused by belly fat may be linked to the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease decades before symptoms appear, new research suggests.

“We’ve known for some time that as belly size increases, memory centers in the brain shrink,” said Dr. Richard Isaacson, an Alzheimer’s disease researcher and preventative neurologist at the Institute of Medicine. neurodegenerative diseases of Florida.

“This study shows a brain imaging marker of neuroinflammation that I haven’t seen before,” said Isaacson, who was not involved in the new study. “Brain imaging links abdominal fat, or visceral fat, to brain dysfunction via an inflammatory cascade.”

The study found that individuals in their 40s and 50s with a greater amount of hidden abdominal fat “had a higher amount of an abnormal protein called amyloid in a part of the brain that we know is the one of the first places where Alzheimer’s disease occurs,” said lead author Dr. Cyrus Raji, associate professor of radiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Beta-amyloid plaques in the brain are one of the hallmark signals of Alzheimer’s disease, along with tangles of a protein called tau. Amyloid plaques usually appear first, with tau tangles arriving later as the disease progresses.

“There is also a gender difference, with men having a higher relationship between their abdominal fat and amyloid than women,” Raji said. “This is important because men have more visceral fat than women.”

The study also found a relationship between deep abdominal fat and brain atrophy, or a loss of gray matter, in a part of the brain’s memory center called the hippocampus.

“This is important because brain atrophy is another biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease,” Raji said.

The brain’s gray matter contains the majority of brain cells that tell the body what to do. White matter is made up of fibers, usually arranged in bundles called fascicles, which form connections between brain cells and the rest of the nervous system.

“We also found that individuals with higher amounts of visceral fat tend to have more inflammation in the widespread white matter tracts of the brain,” said lead author Dr. Mahsa Dolatshahi, a researcher postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Without a functional white matter highway, the brain cannot adequately communicate with different parts of the brain and body.

Published as part of a pilot study in the journal Aging and Disease in August, Raji and her team initially imaged the brains and stomachs of 32 adults aged 40 to 60. The team continued to add participants and now presents information on 20 additional people – 52 totalat the Radiology Society of North America 2023 Conference on Monday.

As more people were added to the study, details of how the inflammation caused by abdominal fat in the parts of the brain where Alzheimer’s disease originates became more precise. The brain changes discovered were modest, but significant, Raji said.

“The reason we showed very subtle effects is that we are studying people in their 40s and 50s, whereas previous studies looked at people in their 60s and 70s,” he said. “These are people who, if they develop Alzheimer’s disease, it won’t happen for 20 or 25 years.

“So we’re really pushing the limits of how quickly we can detect some of the more subtle manifestations of abnormalities that may be linked to Alzheimer’s pathology,” Raji added. “By identifying this pathological link with visceral fat, we can potentially intervene in this population.”

Visceral fat and inflammation

When we think of fat, most of us think of subcutaneous fat, the type that can be pinched under the skin or along the waistline. Subcutaneous fat typically makes up 90% of the body, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Visceral fat cannot be poked, pushed or pinched. Visceral fat hides behind the abdominal muscles, deep in the belly, and wraps around vital organs. Both types secrete hormones and other molecules, but experts say visceral fat is more metabolically active, sending signals that can trigger insulin resistance and other health problems.

“Subcutaneous fat is generally not associated with insulin resistance,” Isaacson said. “The higher the level of visceral fat, the more insulin resistance a person has which causes inflammation in the body and brain.”

Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells do not respond well to insulin, a hormone essential for regulating blood sugar. This disease often leads to diabetes and a host of other chronic illnesses.

“We hypothesized that inflammation of fat cells leads to insulin resistance, and that this is rapidly transmitted through visceral fat,” Isaacson said. “Insulin resistance then causes inflammation which accelerates the deposition of amyloid, one of the key markers of Alzheimer’s disease. This is why people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Expensive full-body MRIs and body scanners are the most accurate way to measure visceral fat, but many use estimates based on waist circumference or waist circumference in proportion to height. To measure your waist size, the Cleveland Clinic recommends wrapping a flexible tape measure around the waist, just above the hips.

“For women, 35 inches (89 centimeters) or more means you are at risk for health problems related to visceral fat. For men, the number is 40 inches (102 centimeters) or more,” the clinic states on its website.

“Regardless of their weight, people should find out if they have hidden visceral fat,” Raji said. “This can be completely ignored by using body mass index (BMI) or weight on the scale.”

Indeed, even thin people can have excess visceral fat. Called “skinny fat” or “TOFI” (thin on the outside, fat on the inside), this can happen when a person exercises but has a poor diet, as well as to certain ethnic groups. Asians, for example, have more visceral fat than blacks, whites or Hispanics.

There’s some good news: Visceral fat responds well to diet and exercise, Raji said. “It is easier to lose visceral fat through diet and exercise than it is to lose subcutaneous fat, because visceral fat is more easily metabolized and burned.”

There are several things that can target body fat, both from an exercise and nutrition perspective, Isaacson said.

“Eat healthily and exercise regularly, which should include strength training several times per week, as well as less intense fat-burning cardio training for 45 to 60 minutes, several times per week,” she said. he declared.

Other tips: eliminate or reduce ultra-processed foods, reduce portion sizes, replace sugary drinks with water, limit processed meats, and reduce high-fat meat and dairy products, such as cheese and butter, which are full of saturated fat, other experts suggest.

Watch your alcohol intake, too: According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s not just beer that leads to a “beer belly.” Drinking alcohol in any form will increase your waistline.

Also monitor your sleep. Millions of Americans are sleep deprived every day, but studies have shown that people who sleep less than six hours a day have higher levels of amyloid in their brains.

Gn Health

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
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