A new study published in the journal Age and Ageing has found an association between high levels of visceral fat (also known as “belly fat”) and poor cognitive function in older adults.
The cross-sectional study led by Dr. Dae Hyun Yoon, associate professor of psychiatry at Seoul National University Hospital, examined 250 adults over the age of 59. Each participant underwent body fat composition measurements, abdominal CT scans and cognitive testing.
The researchers concluded that adults between the ages of 60 and 70 with high body fat, specifically in the visceral region, were more likely to have decreased mental performance.
Dr. Ken Fujioka, director of the Center for Weight Management at Scripps Clinic in San Diego said these results make sense. “As patients gain central obesity – that is the key – they increase their level of inflammatory agents and atherosclerotic agents that will wreck havoc on the brain,” he said in an interview with ABC News.
While more studies are needed to determine whether visceral fat is directly linked to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, Yoon’s stated that, “the prevention of obesity, particularly central obesity, might be important for the prevention of cognitive decline or dementia” in the future.
 Yoon DH et al. The relationship between visceral adiposity and cognitive performance in older adults. Age and Ageing. 22 March 2012. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afs018.