We usually associate weight-related health risks with individuals who look overweight. But new research is showing that even people who look like they have a healthy body weight are at risk for cognitive problems. To be specific, being “skinny fat” can increase a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease. So, what exactly is “skinny fat”?

What is “skinny fat?”

In a study published early this year in the journal, Clinical Interventions in Aging, researchers investigated something called sarcopenia and how it affects cognitive health. 

Sarcopenia is a type of obesity which is very deceiving. Normally, individuals with obesity appear very overweight. But with sarcopenia obesity, people look thin, but they’re really not. 

That’s because they have a high level of muscle loss and instead, have a high amount of excessive body fat. On a scale, they appear to have a healthy weight, but instead of having a health proportion of muscle and fat, they have too little muscle and too much fat. And this is called sarcopenia. 

And like obesity, sarcopenia is a risk factor for declining cognitive health. 

Skinny fat and Alzheimer’s disease

In fact, according to the study, “Sarcopenic obesity or ‘skinny fat’ was associated with the lowest performance on global cognition.” 

In particular skinny fat individuals struggled the most with executive function and orientation – two warning signs of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s. 

This may be a strong motivation to continue exercising in order to support muscle growth. In this way, individuals may be able to counteract age-related muscle loss and help to keep their muscle mass and body fat ratios healthy and in proportion.

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