Central Obesity and the Aging Brain


Journal of the American Medical Association

William Jagust, MD; Danielle Harvey, PhD; Dan Mungas, PhD; Mary Haan, DrPH

Background: Central adiposity as an indicator of visceral fat is linked to vascular and metabolic factors that in turn are related to cognitive decline and dementia.

Objective: To determine whether larger waist-hip ratio (WHR) is associated with structural brain changes that underlie cognitive decline and dementia.

Design: Cross-sectional analysis of an epidemiologic cohort study of cognitive and functional decline (Sacramento Area Latino Study on Aging).

Setting: California Central Valley.

Participants: A total of 112 individuals selected from an ongoing cohort study of 1789 older Latino individuals. Baseline anthropomorphic measures (WHR) and measurements of fasting blood glucose, cholesterol, and insulin levels and blood pressure were obtained.

Main Outcome Measures: Baseline magnetic resonance images were analyzed quantitatively to determine the hippocampal volumes in the right and left hemispheres and rated for the percentage of white matter hyperintensities.

Results: Greater WHR (P=.02) and older age (P_.001) were negatively related to hippocampal volumes. The WHRand age were positively related to white matter hyperintensities (P=.02 and P=.001, respectively). A 1-SD increase in WHR was associated with a 0.2-SD decrease in hippocampal volume and a 27% increase in white matter hyperintensities. These relationships were not affected by adjustment for body mass index, total cholesterol, fasting blood glucose, and insulin levels or systolic blood pressure in the models.

Conclusion: A larger WHR may be related to neurodegenerative, vascular, or metabolic processes that affect brain structures underlying cognitive decline and dementia.

October 2005




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