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Reduced cognitive function connected to visceral fat

Fat stored around vital organs has been linked with reduced cognitive function in older multi-ethnic Asians with type 2 diabetes, according to new research.

A team from the Diabetes Centre at the Admiralty Medical Centre in Singapore wanted to investigate how visceral fat can impact older people’s mental abilities such as their thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem solving, decision making, and attention.

The researchers said that previous studies looking at the link between obesity and cognitive performance in people with type 2 diabetes have produced conflicting results.

In addition, literature that explores the association between central obesity with cognitive function in type 2 diabetes is “scarce”, the team said.

The study involved 677 people and having followed the participants, the research team said that they found evidence to suggest that the higher abdominal fat in the individual, the lower the person’s score was when it came to performing mental ability tasks.

Interestingly, in people who had a BMI of below 23 (considered not overweight or obese by this study) the same pattern was seen, and in fact was seen to a greater extent.

Abdominal fat has been said to have a large impact on type 2 diabetes risk, and a relationship between fat, metabolic conditions and cognitive decline is not a new idea. In fact, it was proposed that Alzheimer’s disease be called type 3 diabetes after links were found between Alzheimer’s disease and insulin resistance in the brain.

The researchers concluded: “Our findings revealed that visceral fat area outperformed other surrogate indices of central obesity as an independent associate of reduced cognitive performance in older multi-ethnic Asians with type 2 diabetes, thus highlighting the adverse effect of visceral obesity on cognition.

“Pre-served cognitive functioning is important in the execution of complex task such as diabetes self-care management. Therefore, assessment of visceral adiposity and interventions that target visceral adiposity may help to prevent cognitive decline in older patients with diabetes, and reduce the global burden of dementia in ageing populations.”

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