Dementia is a growing global public health concern currently affecting 50 million people and is expected to rise dramatically to more than 150 million cases worldwide by 2050.
Obesity, commonly measured by body mass index (BMI), continues to be a global epidemic and earlier studies suggested that obesity at midlife may lead to an increased risk for dementia.
But the association between BMI and the risk of dementia remains unclear.
In a study from Boston University and elsewhere, scientists found that different patterns of BMI change over one’s life course may be an indicator of a person’s risk for dementia.
These findings are important because previous studies that looked at weight trajectories didn’t consider how patterns of weight gain/stability/loss might help signal that dementia is potentially imminent.
In the study, the team used data from a group of participants of the Framingham Heart Study.
These people were followed for 39 years and their weight was measured approximately every 2-4 years.
The researchers compared different weight patterns (stable, gain, loss) among those who did and did not become demented.
They found the overall trend of declining BMI was associated with a higher risk of developing dementia.
However, after further exploration, they found a subgroup with a pattern of initial increasing BMI followed by declining BMI, both occurring within midlife, which appeared to be central to the declining BMI-dementia association.
The team points out that for individuals, family members, and primary care physicians, it is relatively easy to monitor weight.
If after a steady increase in weight that is common as one gets older, there is an unexpected shift to losing weight post-midlife, it might be good to consult with one’s healthcare provider and pinpoint why.
There are some potential treatments emerging where early detection might be critical in the effectiveness of any of these treatments as they are approved and become available.
The researchers hope this study will illustrate that the seeds for dementia risk are being sowed across many years, likely even across the entire lifespan.
If you care about dementia, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and Vitamin B supplements could help reduce dementia risk.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that high-fiber diet could help lower the dementia risk, and these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.
The study was conducted by Rhoda Au et al and published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.
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