Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

Font Size

Belly Fat in Midlife, Dementia Later?

Study Shows Getting a Big Belly in Midlife Ups Risk of Dementia Later in Life

Belly Fat and Dementia Risk continued...

Not everyone who is overweight has a big belly, and some normal-weight people carry excess belly fat. So the researchers looked at the effects of both weight and belly fat.

The worst scenario was being obese with a lot of belly fat. "If you are obese with a big belly, the risk of dementia is 3.6 times [the risk of those with normal weight and low belly fat," Whitmer tells WebMD.

People of normal weight but with excess belly fat had a 1.89 times higher risk of getting dementia than those of normal weight and no excess belly fat.

The study is published online in Neurology.

Belly Fat and Health: How Much Is Too Much?

How to tell if your belly fat is a health risk? Men who have a waist circumference over 40 inches and women with a waist circumference over 35 inches are at greater risk, says Whitmer, citing National Institutes of Health guidelines.

While Whitmer's study didn't look at why belly fat increases dementia risk, she can speculate. "We are hypothesizing that the mechanism must have something to do with some of the substances the belly fat secretes," she says, "and those may have an effect on the brain."

Second Opinions

The study results make sense to two other experts not involved in the research. "It fits quite nicely with all the other data that suggest vascular risk factors are also risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer's disease," says William H. Thies, PhD, vice president of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer's Association in Chicago.

While the study didn't investigate whether reducing belly fat reduces risk, Thies says, it's still a good idea for those with big bellies to work on reducing them through diet and exercise. "Ultimately there is enough data in other places to say changing your central obesity [belly fat] is good for your health."

"It's another piece of information that midlife cardiovascular risk factors are not just bad for your heart, they are bad for your brain," says David Bennett, MD, director of the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Today on WebMD

Remember your finger
When it’s more than just forgetfulness.
senior man with serious expression
Which kinds are treatable?
senior man
Common symptoms to look for.
mri scan of human brain
Can drinking red wine reverse the disease?
eating blueberries
Colored mri of brain
Close up of elderly couple holding hands
mature woman
Woman comforting ailing mother
Senior woman with serious expression