People who have too much fat around their abdomens are three times more likely than slender people to develop memory loss and dementia. And now a new study shows why: Their livers are "eating" their brains, reported Live Science on October 15.
The researchers discovered that the liver and the hippocampus (the memory center in the brain) both need a protein called PPARalpha. While the liver uses PPARalpha to burn belly fat, the hippocampus uses PPARalpha to process memory. And that's a problem for people with excess belly fat.
In such individuals, the liver works frantically to metabolize the fat, thereby using up all of the essential PPARalpha. After consuming that protein located near the liver, the liver seeks sources in the rest of the body, including the brain, explained the scientists.
For obese individuals, the new study shows the danger to their ability to learn and remember, potentially leading to dementia and memory loss as they age, warned the researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
The study places emphasis on the risk of abdominal fat because it is linked to literally starving the hippocampus of PPARalpha.
And a related study at Boston University School of Medicine revealed that the greater the amount of belly fat, the greater the brain shrinkage in old age.
"Further research must be conducted to see how we could potentially maintain normal PPARalpha in the [human] brain," concluded the researchers in their published study.