Does skinnier always = healthier?
Many of us are obsessed with weight management, but those on the skinnier side tend to think of themselves in a healthier position, having watched their weight throughout their lives. But as research continues to prove, when it comes to our bodies and health, things are rarely so straightforward, especially as we age as in the case of a study looking at Alzheimer’s risk.
Reported research conducted at the Florida Atlantic University College of Medicine has found that sarcopenia and obesity (independently, but even more so when occurring together) can heighten the risk of impairments to cognitive function in later life.
Sarcopenia – the loss of muscle mass – happens with age. This in turn means excess body fat may not be readily visible in older people suffering from sarcopenia – effectively people who are ‘skinny fat’. But researchers warn such hidden fat, paired with muscle mass loss later in life, could predict Alzheimer’s risk. They suggest programs addressing loss of cognitive function should include maintaining and improving strength and preventing ‘sarcopenic obesity’. In tests the researchers discovered that the participants with sarcopenic obesity had the poorest performance on cognition-related tests. The next poorest performance was seen in people with sarcopenia alone, followed by participants who only had obesity. Both when occurring independently and when occurring in concert, obesity and loss of muscle mass were linked with impaired working memory, as well as less mental flexibility, poorer orientation, and worse self-control.
The key takeaway is how we maintain our weight is critical. Just focusing on keeping weight low can mask other problems and could increase Alzheimer’s risk if body composition is ignored. Just because you are not overweight doesn’t mean you might not be overfat. Work to maintain muscle.
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