Staying fat throughout one’s existence is an altogether different story which is now becoming a regularity but it’s generally perceived that individuals start gaining fat and losing lean muscle once they cross middle age. That’s probably because they eat the same portion size but the major difference comes in the form of decreased activity and exercise, especially once they pass 50s. As we grow old, there are a number of factors affecting our cognitive skills for which researchers have also come up with equally strong solutions in the form of board games, puzzles and exercises to counter the side effects. But now, a latest study has found one factor that could negatively affect cognition during older age.
A group of researchers have discovered that less muscle and more body fat might affect our cognitive capabilities as we grow old-and changes in the immune system could also be a partial reason for this. The study was conducted on more than 4,000 men and women, middle-aged and above, whose measurements of abdominal fat, lean muscle mass and subcutaneous fat showed that higher amounts of fat in the mid-section paved way for worse fluid intelligence as they grow old (in this study it was after 6 years of study). Fluid intelligence is the thinking, problem solving and reasoning capability of the individual in unexperienced situations irrespective of the knowledge acquired by the person. So, higher abdominal fat led to lower fluid intelligence whereas more muscle mass was protective against such decline. It is to be noted that, muscle mass had a stronger effect than body fat which is encouraging.
We all grow old which is an irreversible process-our chronological age! But our biological age is in our hands-they reveal how old our cells really are and hence, stand as a real indication to our real age. Here, the biological age is the amount of fat and muscles which depict our ageing nature. It is seen that chronological age doesn’t impact our fluid intelligence over time but it’s the biological age that sure does. In the study here, in the case of women, the connection between more abdominal fat and worse fluid intelligence was explained by changes in two types of white blood cells-lymphocytes and eosinophils and in men, it was basophils that explained for half of the fat and fluid intelligence link.
We have studies reporting that higher BMI causes more immune system activity in the blood which in turn activates the immune system in the brain disrupting cognitive capability. But researchers in this study found that the immune system was not involved in any way in the protective effect of higher muscle mass. What is still a concern is whether the same body fat that decreases fluid intelligence could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Irrespective of this, it is always recommended to stay active, eat right and be fit. It is not that fitness is measurable only in terms of gym exercise or aerobics. The grocery you carry from the shop, activities you do at home, the walk from the parking lot to your house and taking the stairs also account towards increased cognitive functioning. But any time, brisk walking always has its benefits-its free, easy and achievable. Benefits of walking is not restricted to weight loss but has a host of other benefits as well, all of which are described in detail at www.firsteatright.com. Don’t miss your workout and your nutritious eating schedules for anything as this would keep you hale and healthy for a longer period.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.