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Parkinson's Disease Health Center

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Obesity Increases Risk of Parkinson's

Upper Arm Fat Identifies Those at High Risk

WebMD Health News

Oct. 29, 2002 -- If flexing your triceps reveals more flab than muscle, you could be at greater risk for Parkinson's disease later in life, according to a new study. Middle-aged men with an excess of upper arm fat are particularly vulnerable to the disease according to the study, which appears in the new issue of Neurology. In fact, men with the highest amount of upper arm fat were three times more likely to develop Parkinson's disease as men with the thinnest arms. Even though other measures of body fat like the level of fat in the upper back and overall body mass index (BMI) were also associated with developing the disease, the strongest connection was thickness of the back of the upper arm, or triceps. These findings suggest that too much body fat in midlife is associated with an increase in Parkinson's disease later in life, according to study leader Robert D. Abbott, PhD, and colleagues. Abbott is with the division of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. The Honolulu Heart Program, which began in the mid-1960s, tracked Asian men aged 45 to 68 over 30 years. Of the nearly 8,000 men, none of whom initially had Parkinson's, 137 of them developed the disease during the study. Even after the researchers accounted for other influencing factors, such as family history, smoking, diet, coffee drinking, or physical inactivity, the risk for Parkinson's disease increased as the fat in the upper arm increased. What this means, according to the researchers, is that looking at family history and measuring body fat may allow doctors to identify individuals at high-risk for Parkinson's disease before any symptoms develop.

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