Thursday, March 27, 2008

Visceral Fat and Dementia

This study was released today, demonstrating in 6,583 patients that visceral fat mass in the 40s predicts the risk of dementia in old age. Patients in the highest quintile (20% with the most visceral fat mass) had an almost three-fold higher risk of dementia than patients in the lowest quintile. Overall fat mass was less strongly correlated with dementia. This study is so timely, they must have heard about my blog post.

They used a measure of visceral fat called the "sagittal abdominal diameter", basically the distance from the back to the belly button. In other words, the beer belly.

What we're looking at is another facet of the pervasive "disease of civilization" that rolls into town on the same truck as sugar and white flour. Weston Price described it in 14 different cultures throughout the world in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer and dementia all seem to come hand-in-hand. It's hard to say exactly what the root cause is, but the chain of causality seems to pass through visceral fat in many people.


Debs said...

That's so interesting. I wonder if, like you said about insulin resistance, removal of visceral fat would reduce the risk of dementia. Better not to build up the vf in the first place, I guess.

I also wonder whether anyone has looked at how nutrition at various stages of life affects visceral fat (or dementia for that matter). Is poor nutrition at any stage a risk factor? Is there any particular risk factor about poor childhood nutrition, as opposed to eating well as a child and terribly in adulthood? Did Weston Price talk about this in the populations he described?

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Debs,

I'd be willing to bet removing visceral fat would reduce the risk of dementia.

Poor nutrition is definitely a risk factor for dementia, so is inactivity.

Weston Price didn't study dementia specifically. He studied dental and facial development and health, and made anecdotal observations about other aspects of health.

Unknown said...

"Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer and dementia all seem to come hand-in-hand."

So many people would benefit from wide-scale education about the link between diet/lifestyle and such diseases. But with so much profits at stake for pharmaceutical and industrial food corporations I don't think we can expect institutional change very soon. At least we have the internet and blogs such as this.