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Being overweight/ can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes/ and heart attacks. But now/ there may be another reason/ to lose the fat, especially around the middle of the body.

A recent study/ suggested that people/ in their forties/ with belly fat/ have an increased risk/ of dementia/ later in life.

Dementia/ is the name/ for a group of brain disorders/ that affect memory, behavior, learning and language. Alzheimer's disease/ is the most common cause. Dementia/ rarely appears/ before the age of sixty.

The new study/ added to growing evidence/ that people/ with large stomachs/ can face greater health risks/ than others who are overweight.

The study/ involved more than six thousand northern California members/ of Kaiser Permanente, a health care organization. Researchers/ looked at the patients' medical records/ from between nineteen sixty-four and nineteen seventy-three.

The people/ were in their early to mid-forties/ at the time. They were all part of a long-term health study/ that included measurements/ of belly fat.

The researchers/ compared the records/ with those/ from when the patients/ were in their seventies. By that time, almost one out of six of them/ had dementia. The researchers found/ that dementia/ was more common/ in those with wider bellies.

Those/ with the highest belly measurements/ had almost three times/ the risk of dementia/ compared to those/ with the lowest. Belly size/ appeared to make a difference/ even in patients/ with normal body weight.

Belly size/ is linked to a kind of fat/ that grows around organs/ and produces harmful substances. Experts believe/ that belly fat/ is more dangerous/ than other kinds of fat cells/ that grow/ just under the skin.

The researchers say/ this is the first study/ to demonstrate a link/ between midlife belly fat/ and the risk of dementia. Still, it is possible/ that this apparent connection/ could be the result/ of a complex set/ of health-related behaviors.

The findings/ appeared/ in the journal Neurology. Rachel Whitmer/ from the Kaiser Permanente research division/ led the study. She says/ the findings/ do not explain/ why belly fat/ may be linked to dementia. But she says/ the study/ should send a warning.

Other research/ has shown/ that brain changes/ linked to Alzheimer’s disease/ might begin/ as early as young adulthood. And another study showed/ that belly fat/ in old people/ was tied to increased loss/ of brain cells.