Weight gain and loss may increase dementia risk in older people

In a new study, researchers found that older people who experience much weight gain or weight loss could be raising their risk of developing dementia.

The research was conducted by a team from the Republic of Korea.

Dementia is an important health problem especially with increasing life expectancy and an aging population.

In 2015, there were an estimated 46.8 million people diagnosed with dementia.

Meanwhile, the global prevalence of obesity, which is closely related to metabolic and heart diseases, has increased by more than 100% over the past four decades.

Previous research has shown a possible link between cardio-metabolic risk factors (such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels) and dementia.

However, the link between body mass index (BMI) in late-life and dementia risk remains unclear.

In the study, the team examined the association between BMI changes over a two-year period and dementia in an elderly Korean population.

They examined 67,219 people 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.

After two years, the incidence of dementia was monitored for an average of 5.3 years from 2008 to 2013.

The team found there was a strong association between late-life BMI changes and dementia in both men and women.

In addition, rapid weight change (a 10% or higher increase or decrease in BMI) over a two-year period was linked to a higher risk of dementia compared with a person with a stable BMI.

However, the BMI at the start of the period was not linked to dementia, with the exception of low body weight in men.

The researchers also found a similar association between BMI change and dementia in normal weight subgroup.

In particular, patients with high fasting blood sugar had a 1.6-fold higher risk of developing dementia compared to individuals with normal or pre-high fasting blood sugar.

In addition, the team found unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, frequent drinking and less physical activity in late life were also linked to dementia.

They say both weight gain and weight loss may be significant risk factors linked to dementia.

This study revealed that severe weight gain, uncontrolled diabetes, smoking and less physical activity in late-life had a detrimental effect on dementia development.

The study is published in the online journal BMJ Open.

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