elderly friends playing chess
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
March 27, 2024 ·  4 min read

Scientists Reveal Overlooked Midlife Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating neurodegenerative disease that affects millions of people worldwide. While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, researchers are constantly striving to understand the factors that contribute to its development. One emerging area of study is the impact of belly fat on Alzheimer’s risk. In this article, we will explore the connection between belly fat and Alzheimer’s disease, and what this means for our overall brain health.

What we already know about Alzheimer’s

Memory loss due to dementia. Senior man losing parts of head as symbol of decreased mind function.
Credit: Shutterstock

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, characterized by the progressive decline of memory and cognitive functions. In the brain, Alzheimer’s is characterized by the accumulation of two types of abnormal proteins: amyloid beta and tau. These proteins form plaques and tangles, which disrupt the normal functioning of brain cells. The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still unknown, but researchers believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors play a role in its development. (1) While anyone can develop Alzheimer’s, there are several factors that can increase a person’s risk. These include age, genetics, smoking, alcohol use, physical inactivity, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. More and more we are beginning to understand the important connection between lifestyle habits, health, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Read More: Light and Sound Therapy Shows Potential for Treating Alzheimer’s Disease

The Connection Between Belly Fat and Alzheimer’s: The Study

Women body fat belly front view
Credit: Shutterstock

Researchers from Rutgers University conducted a study to investigate the impact of abdominal fat on brain health and cognition in individuals at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The study, published in the journal Obesity, found that abdominal fat, particularly pancreatic fat, was associated with lower cognition and brain volumes in middle-aged males with a high risk for Alzheimer’s. Female participants also showed a correlation between abdominal fat and Alzheimer’s risk, although the effect was less pronounced compared to males. (2) “The pathology that develops in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients begins in middle age,” said Dr. Michal Schnaider Beeri, director of the Herbert and Jacqueline Krieger Klein Alzheimer’s Research Center at Rutgers Brain Health Institute and senior author of this study. “Also, the associations of risk factors — such as obesity — with Alzheimer’s (are) strongest when the risk factors evolve in midlife. So we have a great interest in focusing (on) midlife as a critical epoch for potential prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.” (3)

Read More: This 5-minute personality test that can determine your Alzheimer’s risk is shockingly accurate

What this means for us

Diet and Healthy life loss weight slim Concept. Organic Green apple and Weight scale measure tap with nutrition vegan vegetable and sport equipment gym for body women diet fit. Top view copy space.
Credit: Shutterstock

The findings of this study highlight the importance of considering abdominal fat as a potential risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. It suggests that the amount and location of abdominal fat can impact brain health and cognition, especially in individuals at a high risk for the disease. This research emphasizes the need to focus on midlife as a critical period for preventing Alzheimer’s, as the pathology of the disease begins to develop during this time. Moreover, the study raises the question of the role of sex differences in the relationship between fat and brain aging. While the reasons behind the stronger findings in women are not yet fully understood, it underscores the need to investigate the impact of fat on brain health within the context of gender differences. This research also highlights the importance of comprehensive risk assessment and management strategies that take into account factors such as abdominal fat distribution.

Overall Brain Health

Hands holding brain with puzzle paper cutout, autism, memory loss, dementia, epilepsy and alzheimer awareness, world mental health day, world Parkinson day concept
Credit: Shutterstock

What this means for our overall brain health is that maintaining a healthy weight and reducing abdominal fat could potentially reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. While weight loss cannot be specifically targeted to certain areas like the abdomen, adopting a healthy diet that is low in sugar and trans-fat, high in fiber and protein, combined with regular physical activity, sufficient sleep, and stress-reduction techniques such as meditation and deep breathing exercises can help lower visceral fat and promote overall brain health.

The Bottom Line

Dad and son cooking together
Credit: Shutterstock

The connection between abdominal fat and Alzheimer’s risk sheds light on new avenues for prevention and management of the disease. Understanding the impact of belly fat on brain health and cognition, especially in individuals at high risk for Alzheimer’s, provides valuable insights for future research and potential interventions. By adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress reduction techniques, we can take steps to reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s disease and promote better overall brain health.

Read More: One Early Sign of Alzheimer’s That May Show Up Before Others (Not Memory Loss)


  1. Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease.” OHSU
  2. Abdominal fat depots are related to lower cognitive functioning and brain volumes in middle-aged males at high Alzheimer’s risk.” Online Library. Sapir Golan Shekhtman, et al. February 27,2024
  3. Belly fat linked to cognitive decline in people at risk for Alzheimer’s.” Medical News Today. Corrie Pelc. February 27, 2024.