Jul 7, 2018

"Skinny Fat" in Older Adults May Predict Dementia, Alzheimer’s Risk

A new study has found that “skinny fat” – the combination of low muscle mass and strength in the context of high fat mass – may be an important predictor of cognitive performance in older adults.


By Alzheimer's Reading Room

Sarcophagi is defined as the loss of muscle tissue that is part of the natural aging process.

Sarcopenia and obesity both negatively impact health including cognitive function. Their coexistence, however, can pose an even higher threat likely surpassing their individual effects. We assessed the relationship of sarcopenic obesity with performance on global- and subdomain-specific tests of cognition.


Subscribe to the Alzheimer's Reading Room
Email:

  • Using data from a series of community-based aging and memory studies of 353 participants, the researchers assessed the relationship of sarcopenic obesity or skinny fat with performance on various cognition tests.
The average age of the participants was 69.


Data included a clinic visit, valid cognitive test and animal naming; functional testing such as grip strength and chair stands; and body composition (muscle mass, body mass index, percent of body fat) measurements.
  • Results from the study show that sarcopenic obesity or “skinny fat” was associated with the lowest performance on global cognition, followed by sarcopenia alone and then obesity alone. 
  • Obesity and sarcopenia were associated with lower executive function such as working memory, mental flexibility, self-control and orientation when assessed independently and even more so when they occurred together.
Using a cross-sectional design, the researchers found consistent evidence to link sarcopenic obesity to poor global cognitive performance in the study subjects.

This effect is best captured by its sarcopenic component with obesity likely having an additive effect. This effect extends to specific cognitive skills, in particular executive function.


Sarcopenia has been linked to global cognitive impairment and dysfunction in specific cognitive skills including memory, speed, and executive functions,” said senior author James E. Galvin, M.D., M.P.H.,  a professor of integrated medical science in FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine, and a professor in FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing.

“Understanding the mechanisms through which this syndrome may affect cognition is important as it may inform efforts to prevent cognitive decline in later life by targeting at-risk groups with an imbalance between lean and fat mass. They may benefit from programs addressing loss of cognitive function by maintaining and improving strength and preventing obesity.”


  • Obesity may contribute to the risk of impaired executive function through vascular, behavioral, metabolic, and inflammatory mechanisms or can result from reduced impulse control, self-monitoring, and goal-directed behavior in individuals with impaired executive function with a negative effect on the ability to maintain energy balance. 

The exact mechanisms linking obesity to cognitive dysfunction are yet to be determined, although several pathways including sedentary behavior, inflammation, and vascular damage have been proposed.

Problems with Balance, Walking, Falling Can Be an Early Sign of Dementia

Sarcopenia, in turn, has been linked to impairments in abilities that relate to conflict resolution and selective attention. Executive function is reduced in obese older adults, and improvement in muscular function has been linked to enhancement of executive function in senior adults.

Galvin and his study collaborators, Magdalena I. Tolea, Ph.D., a research assistant professor of integrated medical science, and Stephanie Chrisphonte, M.D., a research assistant professor of integrated medical science, both in FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine, caution that changes in body composition including a shift toward higher fat mass and decreased lean muscle mass represent a significant public health concern among older adults as they may lead to various negative health outcomes including cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.

“Sarcopenia either alone or in the presence of obesity, can be used in clinical practice to estimate potential risk of cognitive impairment.  Testing grip strength by dynamometry can be easily administered within the time constraints of a clinic visit, and body mass index is usually collected as part of annual wellness visits.” ~ said Tolea.

Can you die from Alzheimer's disease?

The study, published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, was led by researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Comprehensive Center for Brain Health in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.

Related Articles

6 Ways to Reduce Alzheimer's Risk and Keep Your Brain Healthy As You Age

How the Loss of Memory Works in Alzheimer’s Disease, and How Understanding This Could Help You

Alzheimer's and Anesthesia

Learn More from Our Award Winning Alzheimer's Knowledge Base

Alzheimer's caregiver tips

Alzheimer's and urinary tract infection

How to Embrace Reality in Dementia Care

Need Help? Search Our Award Winning Knowledge Base for Answers to Your Questions About Alzheimer's and Dementia

About the Alzheimer's Reading Room

We help Alzheimer’s patients to live a better life. We accomplish this by providing excellent advice and practical solutions to the problems that caregivers face each day. Our solutions work and have been tested over time by millions of caregivers.

The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the publisher of the highest quality expert information currently available for the Alzheimer's those seeking information on: Alzheimer's care, dementia care, memory care, and for caregivers and dementia professionals.

The goal of the Alzheimer's Reading Room is to Educate and Empower Alzheimer's caregivers, their families, and the entire Alzheimer's and dementia community worldwide.

The Award Winning Alzheimer’s Reading Room Knowledge Base is considered to be the highest quality, deepest collection, of information on Alzheimer’s and dementia in the world.

Citation
Sarcopenic obesity and cognitive performance
Clinical Interventions in Aging
Magdalena I Tolea, Stephanie Chrisphonte, James E Galvin
June 2018
https://bit.ly/2KXYive

This study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health (R01 AG040211 and P30 AG008051), the Morris and Alma Schapiro Fund and the New York State Department of Health.

About the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine:

FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine is one of approximately 151 accredited medical schools in the U.S.

About Florida Atlantic University:

Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida.