If you are obese or overweight, people will always be telling you how bad it is for health. This statement does have truth in it as being obese is, in fact, associated with a whole range of health risks such as cancer, heart diseases, and even dementia.
But are these health risks only for people suffering from obesity?
Researchers are now finding proof if the people who are “skinny fat” or suffer from sarcopenic obesity are exposed to health risks or not. On top of these health risks is the suspected compromised brain function.
In other words, scientists have been working to know if skinny fat people are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia.
What does sarcopenic obesity mean? It is a condition in which a person has a higher mass of fat along with a combination of low strength and muscle mass.
The researchers working in the Florida Atlantic University’s Centre for Brain Health were aware of the fact how obesity and sarcopenia can deteriorate the cognitive function of a person and wanted to know more about the connection between the body composition and mass and the earliest signs of the Alzheimer’s disease.
The lead author of the study was Dr James Galvin, the associate dean for clinical research and the professor of integrated medical science at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine. He believed that the combination of obesity and sarcopenia can pose a higher threat to the cognitive performance as compared to either of the factors alone.
Galvin along with his co-authors published a paper in the journal named the Clinical Interventions in Aging about their findings on this particular topic.
To find out about the potential risk, the researcher used the data collected from 353 participants whose age was 69 on average. The scientists then assessed the possible connection between sarcopenic obesity and cognition testing.
The testing included performing a cognitive assessment, animal naming, and some functional test of standing from a seated position and grip strength. The information taken from these tests were used in comparison to the body composition of each participant including their muscle mass, BMI, and body fat percentage.
After completing the analysis, the scientists discovered that the participants with a high body fat and a relatively low muscle mass, the “skinny fat” people performed poorly with respect to global cognition as well as the overall health.
More specifically, these people had a limited ability to perform any executive function. The impairment caused by sarcopenic obesity was found in those suffering from sarcopenic obesity or those having a low muscle tone. It was also observed in people who simply suffered from obesity too.
Sarcopenia and obesity alone were found to have negative links with self-control, mental flexibility, working memory, and orientation. However, the outcomes were thought to be more profound in people having both body types.
How do you Become Skinny Fat?
As you age, your body tends to lose muscle mass during a process known as sarcopenia.
Previous literature has already documented how sarcopenia is associated with impairment of skills such as speed, executive functions, and memory. These deficits can be further connected to a limited set of abilities in conflict resolution and selective attention.
On the other hand, obesity plays a major role in functions via several behavioral, metabolic, vascular, and even inflammatory mechanisms. These limitations are what contribute to a goal-directed, self-monitoring behavior, decreased energy balance maintenance, and a diminished impulse control.
Different neurologists working in specific fields seem to agree to the fact that the health of a person is tied to their overall mental health. This effect is more prominent and effective as a person ages.
The biggest takeaway from this study is that it is important to maintain a good overall health if you wish to enjoy a stable brain health.
The researchers believed that the effects produced due to a low muscle mass were the basic reason why cognitive decline occurred in the participants. At the same time, it is also considered that obesity worsens these effects further.
The main author of this study has stated how it is important to develop an understanding regarding the mechanism used by this syndrome to affect the cognition.
This is true as it will help prevent cognitive decline in older people by targeting those at high risk due to an imbalance between their fat and lean mass.
Such patients may benefit from certain programs that specialize in improving the cognitive function and reducing its loss by maintenance and improvement in strength and avoidance of obesity.
At the moment, scientists are not fully aware as of why obesity alone is linked with cognitive dysfunction. However, they are certain that this may have connections with a sedentary behavior, vascular damage, and inflammation.
Other co-researchers who worked side by side with Galvin are of the view that testing for obesity and sarcopenia in different individuals may prove beneficial as a diagnostic tool for the doctors. This may help the doctors estimate the risk of cognitive impairment for a certain individual in the coming days.
It can be easy to engage a patient in grip strength test using dynamometry as the patient visits the clinic. In addition to this, the body mass index is collected as a part of their annual wellness visit.
While the study sheds light on a lot of factors contributing to cognitive decline, the researchers do not have definitive proof that being skinny fat may lead to Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, it is just a factor in discovering a lot more about this condition.
The scientists believe that more studies need to be performed before any final conclusion could be made. The data used in this study needs to be replicated in other research studies using different populations.
As per the Alzheimer’s Association, about 5.7 million American suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. By the year 2020, the number will rise to about 14 million.
To prevent this disease and keep your brains healthy, it is important that you take care of what you eat and how much you exercise- not only to decrease body fat but to increase muscle mass.