LOSE weight in middle age could INCREASE risk of Alzheimer’s disease, study finds
- Lower body mass index (BMI) was associated with increased risk of dementia
- BMI fluctuation can be caused by a range of factors such as fad diets and stress
- The new study is not an endorsement for going out and packing on extra pounds
Weight loss in middle age has been associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Obesity or being overweight has long been known to increase the risk of dementia and older people are advised to stay lean to avoid this condition.
But researchers in Boston and China have found that adults who lose body mass in midlife have an increased risk of developing dementia later on.
They call for the ‘unexpected’ finding to be investigated further to ensure that other lifestyle factors are not responsible for the increased risk.
The researchers identified a subgroup with a pattern of initial increasing BMI followed by declining BMI. Both happened in middle age – which seemed to be at the heart of the declining BMI-dementia association
The study’s lead author, Professor Rhoda Au, from Boston University, said: ‘If after a steady increase in weight, common as one ages, there is an unexpected shift towards weight loss after quarantine, it may be worth consulting with your health care provider and explaining why.
The results add to the evidence that the seeds of dementia are sown over many years – probably even across the lifespan.
Nearly 10% of American adults age 65 and older have dementia, while 22% have mild cognitive impairment, according to researchers at Columbia University.
Dementia is a global problem that affects 50 million people and is expected to increase dramatically to over 150 million cases worldwide by 2050.
Obesity, meanwhile, is responsible for some of the leading causes of preventable premature death, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. About 42% of adults age 20 and older were obese from 2017 to March 2020.
The American and Chinese team analyzed data from the Framingham Heart Study, a group of participants from the city of Massachusetts followed for four decades.
Their weight was measured approximately every two to four years. Professor Au and his colleagues compared rates of dementia among those whose weight increased, decreased or remained stable.
Professor Au said: “These findings are important because previous studies that looked at weight trajectories did not consider how patterns of weight gain/stability/loss might help signal that dementia is potentially imminent. “
The researchers found that the general downward trend in BMI was associated with a higher risk of developing dementia.
However, after further exploration, they identified a subgroup with a pattern of initial increasing BMI followed by falling BMI.
Decreased body mass index (BMI) was associated with an increased risk of developing cognitive problems affecting memory, thinking, and social skills
Both occurred in middle age – which appears to be central to the declining BMI-dementia association. The results appear online in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The results should not be interpreted as an endorsement for putting on extra pounds.
Obesity is linked to a litany of health problems, including high blood pressure and cholesterol, inflammation, and cardiovascular death.
It increases the risk of heart disease, which kills 647,000 people each year in the United States, making it the number one cause of death. Obesity has also been linked to 12 different cancers.
OBESITY: WHAT IS THE MEDICAL DEFINITION?
Obesity is defined as an adult with a BMI of 30 or more.
The BMI of a healthy person – calculated by dividing the weight in kg by the height in meters, and the answer by the height again – is between 18.5 and 24.9.
In children, obesity is defined as being in the 95th percentile.
Percentiles compare young people to others of the same age.
For example, if a three-month-old is in the 40th percentile for weight, that means that 40% of three-month-olds weigh the same or less than that baby.
About two out of five men and women in the United States are obese.
The disease costs the US healthcare system about $173 billion a year.
This is because obesity increases the risk of a number of life-threatening diseases.
These conditions include type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness, and even limb amputations.
Obesity also increases the risk of heart disease, which kills 647,000 people each year in the United States, making it the number one cause of death.
Carrying dangerous amounts of weight has also been linked to 12 different cancers, including breast cancer.
In children, research suggests that 70% of obese young people have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, which puts them at risk for heart disease.
Obese children are also much more likely to become obese adults.
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