Body fat

Having More Body Fat May Decrease Cognitive Function

Higher body fat percentages and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) may be associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, vascular brain injuries, and lower cognitive function, according to the results of a recent study.

“In this cross-sectional study, generalized and visceral adiposity were associated with reduced cognitive scores, after adjustment for cardiovascular risk factors, educational level, and vascular brain injury,” the researchers wrote. “These results suggest that strategies to prevent or reduce adiposity may preserve cognitive function.”

Included in the analysis were 9189 individuals aged 30 to 75 years who did not have cardiovascular disease and had participated in the Canadian Alliance for Healthy Hearts and Minds (CAHHM) or the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiological-Mind (PURE-MIND) cohort studies. CAHHM was conducted from January 2014 to December 2018 in Canada. PURE-MIND was conducted from January 2010 to December 2018 in Canada and Poland. The cross-sectional analysis was conducted from May 2021 to November 2021.

Body fat percentages were measured in 9166 participants through bioelectrical impedance analysis. Vascular brain injury and VAT volume were measured in 6773 participants through magnetic resonance imaging.

The results indicated that VAT had a significant correlation with body adiposity measured by body fat percentage in both women and men. Increases in body fat percentage and VAT increased cardiovascular disease risk factors and vascular brain injury.

Cardiovascular disease risk factors were measured using the INTERHEART Risk Score (IHRS). “Accordingly, the percentages of [body fat] and VAT were each positively associated with central adiposity and the IHRS (P < .001 for trend),” the researchers wrote.

Further, increases in body fat percentages and VAT were associated with lower cognitive function scores as measured by the Digital Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) and the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA). “Higher total percentage of [body fat] was associated with lower DSST […] and MoCA […] scores in models adjusted for age, sex, educational level, and race and ethnicity,” the researchers wrote. “Higher VAT was also associated with lower DSST scores […] but not with MoCA scores.”


—Leigh Precopio



Anand SS, Friedrich MG, Lee DS, et al; Canadian Alliance of Healthy Hearts and Minds (CAHHM) and the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) Study Investigators. Evaluation of adiposity and cognitive function in adults. JAMA Netw Open. Published online February 1, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.46324