Aug. 1 (UPI) -- A higher waist-to-hip ratio is linked to reduced cognitive function in adults older than 60, according to a study in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Researchers at Trinity Ulster Department of Agriculture studied data from 5,186 individuals, an endeavor they believe is the one of the largest studies of older adults to report these findings. Their research was published Tuesday in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Previous research has found overweight people do not perform as well on tests of memory and visuospatial ability compared with those who are normal weight. But it wasn't known if this was the case with older adults, or if it accounted for dementia.
"While we have known for some time that obesity is associated with negative health consequences our study adds to emerging evidence suggesting that obesity and where we deposit our excess weight could influence our brain health," senior author Conal Cunningham, a clinical associate professor in medical gerontology at Trinity, said in a press release. "This has significant public health implications."
Researchers believe the decreased cognitive function linked to a higher waist-to-hip ratio could be because of an increased secretion of inflammatory markers by belly fat.
However, the body mass index, or BMI, was found to protect cognitive function. BMI, a crude measure of body fat, doesn't differentiate between fat and muscle.
A variety of neuropsychological assessment measures were used on participants led by St. James's Hospital Dublin.