Obesity in midlife tied to Alzheimer’s-related genes, UT Health San Antonio scientists find

Researchers conducted a study with over 5,000 participants

SAN ANTONIO – New research from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio links obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings were published on Feb. 22 in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

In a study with over 5,000 people, UT Health San Antonio researchers found 21 genes, known to play a role in Alzheimer’s, were vulnerable to the disease when the person had a high BMI or high hip-to-waist ratio.

UT health researcher Claudia Satizabal said several studies had led researchers to link obesity and dementia, but looking at the genes gave a better understanding of why.

“Obesity could change some internal functions in the body that will exacerbate any process or just contribute to an ongoing damaging process leading to dementia,” Satizabal said. “There are several hypotheses, just perhaps because, you know, in obesity, there’s some metabolic dysregulation.”

Satizabal said if obesity is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s, then people should be mindful of their health for the future. She suggests people talk with their doctors about watching for diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

“The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is projected to explode in the next couple of decades. And obesity also has been steadily increasing worldwide. And if obesity is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, imagine what is going to happen in a couple of decades if we don’t do anything about it now,” Satizabal said.

One limitation was a lack of diversity in participants. Satizabal said Hispanics are historically more prone to obesity & diabetes.

“We know that the population here is at higher risk of diabetes and obesity. So this would potentially be a bigger problem in this area. So we want to provide more answers to the population here,” Satizabal said.

To participate in an observational study, meaning no medication or interventions, follow this link.