Add dementia to the growing list of conditions a pot belly may predict. Researchers report that individuals with large abdominal girth in their 40s were as much as 3.6 times more likely to exhibit dementia three decades later than their leaner cohorts. Previous research has tied abdominal obesity to cardiovascular disease and other medical conditions.

The research team looked at abdominal-diameter measurements of 6,583 participants enrolled in a Kaiser Permanente health plan in California between 1964 and 1973. An average of 36 years later, when the subjects were between 73 and 87 years old, 15.9% had developed dementia.

When the participants were stratified by abdominal measurement, a girth-dependent pattern emerged. Compared with the lowest quintile of girth, those in second quintile were 20% more likely to develop dementia. The rate was 49% higher in the third quintile, 67% greater in the fourth, and increased steeply in the fifth, where subjects were 2.72 times more likely to develop dementia (Neurology. 2008; E-pub ahead of print at

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A large abdomen increased the risk of dementia regardless of whether the participants were of normal weight, overweight, or obese.

Compared with those of normal weight and belly size, subjects who were overweight or obese but did not have a large abdomen had an 80% increased risk of dementia. Those who were both overweight and had a large belly were 2.34 times more likely to develop dementia, and people who were obese and had a large abdomen were 3.6 times more likely to become senile.