Irish scientists discover possible link between obesity and dementia

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Irish scientists discover link between obesity and dementia

We have all heard the phrase ‘healthy body, healthy mind’. It seems that it could be even more true than we realised after a discovery by a team of Irish scientists.

A team at St James’s Hospital Dublin, have discovered a possible link between obesity and dementia.

Their research was conducted in collaboration with Trinity College Dublin and co-investigators from the Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health at Ulster University, Coleraine.

Irish scientists discover link between obesity and dementia
They studied 5,000 Irish people over the age of 60. They found that the measure of belly fat is linked to cognitive impairment.

Excess belly fat can increase the secretion of inflammatory markers that are associated with a higher risk – which, in turn, can damage cognitive function.

Eamon Laird, research fellow with the Centre for Medical Gerontology, Trinity, says that people had associated a fading memory with old age for a long time, but that this new research indicates that they might be able to do something about it.

He said: “Now it may be possible to do something to reduce the chances of that happening.

“If people maintain high fitness levels into older age, it could reduce the odds of negatively impairing your cerebral health.”

The findings could be vital as people’s life expectancy is getting longer, but over half of Ireland’s over-50s are centrally obese (when a person has excessive fat around the stomach and abdomen).

Only 16% of men and 26% of women have a BMI within the ‘normal range, according to data from the Trinity Ulster Department of Agriculture.

By the year 2040 it is predicted that around 81.1 million people around the world will be suffering with dementia.
Conal Cunningham is a clinical associate professor in medical gerontology at Trinity. He spoke about the importance of the findings.

He said: “[The study] adds to emerging evidence suggesting that obesity and where we deposit our excess weight could influence our brain health.

“This has significant public health implications.”

The research shows that getting into better shape is not only beneficial for your physical wellbeing but also your mental health.

People are advised to increase their level of physical activity, their fruit and veg intake and reduce snack and high calorie soft drink consumption.

Researchers say that raising awareness and providing support and encouragement for people to reduce ‘obesogenic risk factors’ could offer a cost-effective public health strategy for the prevention of cognitive decline.

Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling