Weight gain and loss may worsen dementia risk in older people – Alzheimer’s Society comment

Older people who experience significant weight gain or weight loss could be raising their risk of developing dementia, suggests a study from Korea published today in the online journal BMJ Open.

A team of researchers from the Republic of Korea set out to investigate the association between BMI changes over a two-year period and dementia in an elderly Korean population.

They examined 67,219 participants aged 60–79 years who underwent BMI measurement in 2002-2003 and 2004-2005 as part of the National Health Insurance Service-Health Screening Cohort in the country.

At the start of the study period, characteristics were measured including BMI, socioeconomic status and cardiometabolic risk factors.

Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, commented:

'Two million people are set to develop dementia by 2051, so understanding how lifestyle factors can contribute to dementia risk is crucial if we’re to find a way to prevent people developing the condition. 

'Although this research suggests rapid changes to our weight later in life could increase dementia risk, it’s difficult to distinguish between cause and effect. People with early dementia can often report changes in appetite and diet.

'Understanding how changes to our lifestyle throughout our lives may affect our risk of dementia is vital, which is why we’re funding the UK’s largest study focused on mid-life dementia risk factors. 

'This study did confirm that heart disease and diabetes are risk factors for dementia. While our research continues, regular exercise, eating healthy food and avoiding smoking and too much alcohol are all lifestyle habits which will not only help maintain a healthy weight, but will also be good for your brain too.'

Eating and weightloss

Learn more about eating and weight loss in the later stages of dementia.

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