It’s normal to start having little memory glitches here and there as you get older. Yet, some people can start experiencing significant memory loss at a much earlier age. While there are several risk factors for early memory loss, I recently came across an interesting study that revealed your waistline as a likely warning signal. Here’s what I found…
What The Size of Your Waistline Can Predict About Your Memory
I’ve always told my patients, and my readers, keeping a normal weight, and waistline size, can help prevent several health conditions associated with aging. These include:
- Heart disease
Fat storage creates a dangerous protein called cytokines that produce inflammation. The more overfat you are, the more of these proteins your body has on board. Inflammation can wreak havoc on your heart, joints, and pancreas setting them up for disease. It can even corrupt the normal cellular reproduction of your DNA. It can cause you to develop gene mutations that weaken your cells and make you age much faster. What’s too big of a belly/waistline? For women – over 35 inches, and men – over 40 inches.
Now, researchers at Rush University Medical Center have found another target organ that the size of your waistline affects – your brain, more specifically your memory. Here’s why…
First, the studies showed that middle aged people with higher amounts of abdominal fat are 3.6 times more likely to develop dementia and memory loss when they get older. They found that abnormal fat metabolism that contributes to storing a lot of abdominal fat also contributes to memory loss and inability to learn.
Secondly, they found that the same protein (PPARalpha) that controls fat metabolism in the liver is also found in the hippocampus (memory, learning) center of the brain. They discovered that lab animals that were deficient in this protein in their liver had more abdominal fat. And, that their memory and learning improved when given injections of the protein. This directly correlates to people as those with more abdominal fat also have depleted liver PPARalpha levels and impaired fat metabolism.
The loss off PPARalpha starts first in the liver and then progresses to loss of the protein from the entire body including the brain. The researchers concluded that a high level of abdominal fat in middle age is likely a good predictor of who will develop dementia and memory loss in older years. It’s a warning signal that the individual may have low PPARalpha levels in their brain. Researchers are studying ways to increase PPARalpha protein to protect memory and learning.
Decrease Your Waistline, Decrease Your Risk of Memory Loss
In an early study out of the Univesity of Minnesota Department of Chemistry, researchers found that polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s) seem to stimulate fat uncoupling proteins (UCP’s). These are proteins that, as their name says, take apart fats and use them for energy. These UCP’s are stimulated to action by the PPARalpha protein. So, if PPARalpha proteins are deficient, fat metabolism will be decreased and stored usually around your waistline/belly. After ingestion of dietary oleic acids, however, their research showed a modest 8-fold increase in the UCP proteins. High sources of oleic acids come from:
- Safflower, olive, rapeseed, and hazel nut oils.
12-36 hours after ingestion of EPA (eicocapentaenoic acid) – an Omega-3 fatty acid – there was a 50-fold increase of fat metabolizing UCPs. High food sources of EPA’s come from:
- Sardines, salmon, flax seeds, walnuts, and supplements. Studies have shown that blood levels of EPA fatty acids have risen 129% after eating high EPA foods for 8 weeks. 1,000-2,000 mg a day mixed food/supplement sources.
In addition to getting enough of these fatty acids, here are some other things that can help stimulate healthy fat metabolism in your liver:
1. Low/no refined sugar intake. Too much dietary sugar causes spikes in insulin which increases fat storage – especially belly fat. Read label information – limit to 20 grams a day.
2. Liver supports. Marshmallow Root, Milk Thistle (silymarin), and lemon juice in hot water stimulates liver function and helps fat metabolism.
3. Vitamins. B vitamins (B6, B12 and folic acid), tocotrienols (vitamin E), Vitamin D, and lipoic acid stimulate normal liver function and help it unclog itself of fat.
4. Probiotics. These help break down heavy fats to make your liver’s job easier. They also keep the gut free from toxins and repopulate it with good bacteria.
5. Aerobic and resistance training exercise. Research has shown that both stimulate liver cleansing and result in more efficient fat burning.
6. Higher protein intake. Helps stimulate fat burning and clearing from the liver. A study showed that people who used whey protein shakes 3 times a day x4 weeks were found to have a 20% decrease in unhealthy build up of liver fat.
More and more research every day points to the underlying fact that keeping a normal weight – especially by the time you reach middle age – is important to preserving your health on many fronts. It seems to be the key to staying healthier and independent as you get older. And, now, as researchers are learning more and more about, getting to/maintaining a normal weight can also help preserve your memory and learning ability.
Ron Blankstein, M.D.