FIFTY

Belly Fat May Cause Alzheimer's And Dementia, Study Says

10/09/2013 04:31 pm ET | Updated Oct 11, 2013

That treat you just indulged in won't just go from your lips to your hips -- it might just go straight to your head. Middle-aged people with high abdominal fat are 3.6 times as likely to suffer from memory loss and dementia later on in life, researchers have discovered.

The protein responsible for metabolizing fat in the liver is the same protein found in the part of the brain that controls memory and learning, researchers at Rush University Medical Center found. People with higher abdominal fat actually have depleted this fat metabolizing protein.

"We need to better understand how fat is connected to memory and learning so that we can develop an effective approach to protect memory and learning," said Dr. Kalipada Pahan, a professor of neurology at Rush University Medical Center, in a press release.

The liver is the body's main fat metabolizing organ. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARalpha) is known to control fat metabolism in the liver. Therefore, PPARalpha is highly expressed in the liver.

"We are surprised to find a high level of PPARalpha in the hippocampus of animal models," said Pahan in a press release.

"While PPARalpha deficient mice are poor in learning and memory, injection of PPARα to the hippocampus of PPARalpha deficient mice improves learning and memory," said Pahan.

This isn't the first study to point to a healthy weight and diet as a way to avoid Alzheimer's, which affects an estimated 5.1 million Americans. The Mediterranean Diet, high in omega-3's and low in bad fats, has been shown to help preserve memory and thinking skills.

Aside from a healthy, balanced diet, people at risk for memory loss have also been able to improve memory and neural efficiency just by taking regular walks. As if you needed another reason to trim that waistline.

Read the full results of the study here.

Earlier on HuffPost50:

Marilu Henner's Memory Makeover Tips
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