Central obesity may increase dementia risk in women

12/14/2009 - Articles

Central obesity may increase dementia risk in women

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD


Central obesity – or having an ‘apple’ rather than ‘pear’ shape – is defined as having a waist-to-hip ratio of greater than 0.8. If you have a larger waist measurement, you might be carrying some central obesity Research has shown that fat around the middle is linked with a number of health problems, including heart disease. Now researchers in Sweden suggest that central obesity in women may increase the risk of dementia.

In the Prospective Population Study of Women, the researchers enrolled 1,462 women without dementia in 1968. Measurements of weight, body mass index, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio were taken at the start and also in 1974, 1980, 1992 and 2000. Cognitive testing was also carried out. Over the time of the study, 161 participants developed dementia. Those with a waist-to-hip ratio of more than 0.8, which is indicative of central obesity, were twice as likely to develop dementia.

However, the relationship between body weight and distribution and dementia is complex. Those who developed dementia were also more likely to lose weight around the time of diagnosis. There was also no obvious relationship between other body measurements, like waist circumference or body mass index alone, and dementia. More research needs to be done but clearly it could be that central obesity contributes to dementia in some way. Fat around the middle is different from fat elsewhere – it is metabolically active and may have a toxic effect upon the heart (hence the risk of heart disease) and the brain (increasing dementia risk). But we do not yet understand all the reasons why central obesity is a health hazard.



Gustafson DR et al Adiposity indicators and dementia over 32 years in Sweden Neurology November 2009;73:1559-1566.


Created on: 12/14/2009
Reviewed on: 12/14/2009

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