Cognition down in apple-shaped seniors

From Washington, D.C., at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience

An expanding waistline could indicate decreasing cognitive function as people age, according to a new study.

Previous studies had identified a link between type 2 diabetes and memory problems. Other research suggested that apple-shaped people, who have a high waist-to-hip ratio, are more likely to have diabetes than are pear-shaped people, who carry their weight in their buttocks and thighs.

“We wanted to know, ‘Can you use body shape as an index for memory problems?'” says Kristoffer Rhoads of the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Medical Center in Seattle.

To investigate this question, he and his colleagues recruited 54 women and men, ranging in age from 55 to 89, with neither diabetes nor dementia.

For each study participant, Rhoads and his team recorded hip-to-waist ratio and blood-glucose concentration while fasting, a measure of diabetes risk. The volunteers also participated in several tests of memory and other types of cognitive function, such as paying attention to one stimulus while ignoring another.

The researchers found that apple-shaped participants scored significantly worse on several of the cognitive tests than did the pear-shaped volunteers. As in previous studies, volunteers who had high hip-to-waist ratios were more likely to have higher blood-glucose concentrations than those of people with less fat around the middle.

Rhoads suggests that as waistlines continue to expand in populations worldwide, doctors may eventually use body shape to screen for people at risk of developing cognitive problems.

From the Nature Index

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