Examining the Influence of Measures of Adiposity on Cognitive Function in Middle Age and Older African Americans

Document Type


Publication Date

December 2015


The objectives of the study were to examine whether measures of total obesity (body mass index [BMI]) and central obesity (waist circumference [WC] and waist-to-hip ratio [WHR]) are associated with cognitive function in African Americans, and whether sex moderates these associations. A sample of 194 African Americans, with a mean age of 58.97 years, completed a battery of cognitive tests and a self-reported health questionnaire. Height, weight, waist and hip circumference, and blood pressure were assessed. Linear regression analyses were run. Results suggested lower performance on measures of verbal fluency and complex attention/cognitive flexibility was accounted for by higher levels of central adiposity. Among men, higher WHR was more strongly related to complex attention/cognitive flexibility performance, but for women, WC was a salient predictor. Higher BMI was associated with poorer verbal memory performance among men, but poorer nonverbal memory performance among women. Findings suggest a need for healthy lifestyle interventions for African Americans to maintain healthy weight and cognitive function.

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