Belly Fat associated with Risk of Restless Legs

Belly Fat

While, more research is needed to confirm the association, a new study suggests there is a link between belly fat and restless legs syndrome, a movement disorder.

Participants of the study with the biggest bellies were one and a half times more likely than those with smaller bellies to have restless legs syndrome. A similar association was found in obese participants compared to those who were not, regardless of their belly size.

A neurological disorder, restless legs syndrome (RLS) affects around one in ten American adults. RLS causes unpleasant sensations in the legs when a person is resting and triggers an uncontrollable urge to move the legs for relief. While, the cause is unknown, researchers suspect an imbalance in the movement-regulating brain chemical dopamine plays a role, which is why drugs that increase dopamine activity are sometimes used to treat RLS.

Past research has shown obese adults tend to have lower dopamine activity in the brain than their slimmer counterparts; however, the relationship between obesity and RLS remained unclear.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), though the causes of restless legs syndrome are poorly understood, 50% of people treated for it, have a family history of the disorder, with strong evidence that environmental influences also contribute to RLS.

In theory, dopamine possibly explains the connection between obesity and RLS, but it is likely there are multiple mechanisms through which excess weight contributes to the neurological disorder. There is a higher risk of heart disease among overweight adults, and studies have found links between cardiovascular disease and RLS, making it possible that dysfunction in blood vessels plays a role in RLS.

The study was carried out on 65,554 women and 23,119 men, with participants considered to have restless legs syndrome, if they met four diagnostic criteria for the disorder the international study group had recommended, including if they experienced the symptoms five or more times a month.

The findings published in the April issue of the Neurology journal, reveal 6.4% of the women participants and 4.1% of the men had RLS.