Being overweight increases the risk of dementia

Swedish researchers discover link between overweight and dementia

Being overweight in middle age increases the risk of dementia in old age by 80 percent. Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm came to this conclusion in a comprehensive study with 8,534 twins aged 65 and over.

The risk of dementia is increased by 80 percent in people who have a body mass index (BMI) of more than 25 in middle age, report the researchers of the Karolinska Institute in the journal "Neurology". When evaluating the data from a Swedish twin registry that has been in existence for more than four decades, the scientists have found a clear correlation between obesity in the middle years and dementia diseases later in life.

Relationship between dementia and obesity is examined In the course of their study, the Swedish researchers checked the current state of health of the 8,534 twins aged 65 and older with regard to possible dementia diseases and then compared them with the BMI of the test subjects in middle age. The scientists were able to derive the BMI from the data from the Swedish twin registry on the height and weight of the test subjects 30 years ago. In a first step, the researchers at the Karolinska Institute found that 350 study participants had already diagnosed dementia, and 114 had symptoms for a reasonable suspicion. When determining the BMI that the test subjects had in middle age, the researchers came to the conclusion that 2,541 of the 8,534 middle age twins recorded were overweight or obese.

Obesity in middle age dramatically increases the risk of dementia. When analyzing the possible connections between dementia diseases and the overweight of the test subjects, the scientists at the Karolinska Institute found that among the study participants with dementia, a significantly larger proportion suffered from obesity in the earlier life than than with the healthy. According to the researchers, 36 percent of the subjects suspected of having dementia were overweight and five percent were obese. Among the study participants with a diagnosis of dementia, the percentage of overweight people was 39 percent, and obesity was seven percent. In contrast, only 26 percent of the subjects without dementia were overweight in their middle age and three percent were obese. From this, the researchers derive an 80 percent increased risk of dementia later in life with overweight in the middle years of life. The correlation between being overweight and the risk of dementia was also confirmed when other factors such as educational level, genetic disposition, diabetes or vascular diseases were taken into account, the researchers report.

Link between nutrition and brain disorders The Swedish researchers confirm with their investigation the results of previous studies, which already suggested a link between brain disorders and increased body weight. For example, Antonio Convit from the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatry Research in New York and colleagues reported in the specialist magazine "Brain" at the beginning of January that overweight people saw a significant reduction in certain reward and appetite centers in the cerebrum and significant structural damage to the brain. Their study suggests that the inflammatory effects of being overweight in the nervous system, already known from previous studies, can shrink entire brain areas, the US researchers wrote earlier this year. The results of the current Swedish study point in a similar direction and underline the importance of a healthy diet for health in old age. (fp)

Also read:
Dementia and Alzheimer's
Dementia: holistic treatment approach
Alzheimer's was recognizable years before the outbreak
World Alzheimer's Day: experts warn of dementia

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