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The relationship between adiposity and cognitive function in a large community-dwelling population: data from the Trinity Ulster Department of Agriculture (TUDA) ageing cohort study

  • Ontefetse Ntlholang (a1), Kevin McCarroll (a1), Eamon Laird (a2), Anne M. Molloy (a2), Mary Ward (a3), Helene McNulty (a3), Leane Hoey (a3), Catherine F. Hughes (a3), J. J. Strain (a3), Miriam Casey (a1) and Conal Cunningham (a1)...

Previous reports investigating adiposity and cognitive function in the population allude to a negative association, although the relationship in older adults is unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate the association of adiposity (BMI and waist:hip ratio (WHR)) with cognitive function in community-dwelling older adults (≥60 years). Participants included 5186 adults from the Trinity Ulster Department of Agriculture ageing cohort study. Neuropsychological assessment measures included the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), Frontal Assessment Battery (FAB) and Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS). Multi-variable linear regression models were used to assess the association between adiposity and cognitive function adjusting for insulin resistance, inflammation and cerebrovascular disease. The mean ages were 80·3 (sd 6·7), 71·0 (sd 7·3) and 70·2 (sd 6·3) years on the cognitive, bone and hypertensive cohorts, respectively. In the cognitive cohort, BMI was positively associated with immediate and delay memory, visuospatial/constructional ability, language and MMSE, and negatively with FAB (log-transformed), whereas WHR was negatively associated with attention. In the bone cohort, BMI was not associated with any cognitive domain, whereas WHR was negatively associated with visuospatial/constructional ability, attention and MMSE. In the hypertensive cohort, BMI was not associated with any cognitive domain, whereas WHR was negatively associated with immediate and delayed memory, visuospatial/constructional ability, language and MMSE and positively with FAB (log-transformed). In the cognitive and bone cohorts, the association of WHR and attention disappeared by further controlling for C-reactive protein and HbA1C. In this study of older adults, central adiposity was a stronger predictor of poor cognitive performance than BMI. Older adults could benefit from targeted public health strategies aimed at reducing obesity and obeseogenic risk factors to avoid/prevent/slow cognitive dysfunction.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Dr O. Ntlholang, fax +353 1 410 3499, email
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British Journal of Nutrition
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  • EISSN: 1475-2662
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