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A growing body of evidence links excess body fat to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, likely due to several factors, including heightened inflammation, insulin resistance, and elevated levels of amyloid-beta (a pathological hallmark of the disease) in fat tissue. A recent study found that greater lean muscle mass reduced the risk for Alzheimer’s disease by 12 percent.

Using Mendelian randomization techniques, researchers analyzed health data and cognitive performance of more than a million people with or without Alzheimer’s disease. Mendelian randomization is a research method that provides evidence of links between modifiable risk factors and disease based on genetic variants within a population. They calculated the participants' muscle mass based on genetic factors, often referred to as genetic proxies.

They found that people with greater genetically proxied lean muscle mass in the arms and legs were 12 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, even when accounting for genetic factors that may influence risk. They also demonstrated better cognitive performance.

These findings suggest that lean muscle mass protects against Alzheimer’s disease. However, the researchers noted that whether increasing lean muscle mass can reverse the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease in people with preclinical disease or mild cognitive impairment is unclear. Learn how resistance training helps build and maintain lean muscle mass in this clip featuring Dr. Brad Schoenfeld.

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