De­men­tia risk ‘linked to our weight in mid­dle age’

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS -

MID­DLE-AGED peo­ple who are over­weight have an in­creased risk of de­men­tia, a new anal­y­sis has found.

The re­search, based on 39 stud­ies across Europe, the US and Asia, looked at the health of more than 1.3 mil­lion adults.

It con­cluded that peo­ple who were di­ag­nosed with de­men­tia gen­er­ally had a higher Body Mass In­dex (BMI) in midlife but a lower one in old age.

Of the 1,349,857 peo­ple who took part in the study, 6,894 were recorded as de­vel­op­ing de­men­tia, the re­search, pub­lished in the Alzheimer’s and De­men­tia Jour­nal, said.

BMI is a mea­sure tak­ing into ac­count a person’s height and weight. A healthy BMI is in the 18.5 to 24.9 range, ac­cord­ing to the NHS.

Twenty-five to 29.9 means some­one is over­weight while 30 or above means some­one is obese.

The study, which in­volved re­searchers from Univer­sity Col- lege Lon­don, the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh, and the Univer­sity of Bris­tol, as well as oth­ers from in­sti­tu­tions in Swe­den, France, and Fin­land, said “higher BMI was as­so­ci­ated with in­creased de­men­tia risk when weight was mea­sured (more than) 20 years be­fore de­men­tia di­ag­no­sis (typ­i­cally in midlife), but this as­so­ci­a­tion was re­versed when BMI was as­sessed (less than) 10 years be­fore de­men­tia di­ag­no­sis (typ­i­cally in old age)”.

Dr Rosa San­cho, from the char­ity Alzheimer’s Re­search UK, said the rea­son for some suf­fer­ers hav­ing a lower BMI in the years lead­ing up to their di­ag­no­sis could be due to ef­fects of the con­di­tion.

She said: “This large study links a higher BMI with an in­creased risk of de­men­tia later in life and un­der­lines the im­por­tance of main­tain­ing a healthy weight to help sup­port a healthy brain.

“While the re­searchers found that peo­ple with de­men­tia actu- ally tended to have a lower BMI in the years lead­ing up to a di­ag­no­sis this could be a con­se­quence of the early stages of a dis­ease like Alzheimer’s, rather than a fac­tor af­fect­ing risk.

“We know that dis­eases that cause de­men­tia get un­der way many years be­fore symp­toms show, so our lifestyle in midlife can have a strong im­pact on our brain health in later life.

“Lim­it­ing the amount of body fat we carry is im­por­tant for a healthy body and brain.”

Dr Rosa San­cho

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