Weight loss in old age may signal dementia

May 18, 2009,

A new study shows that older people who are thinner or are losing weight quickly are at a higher risk of developing dementia, especially if they started out overweight or obese. The research is published in the May 19, 2009, print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

For the study, researchers followed for eight years 1,836 Japanese Americans in Washington state with an average age of 72. During that time, 129 people developed .

The research found that people with lower () scores at the beginning of the study were 79 percent more likely to develop than those with higher BMI scores.

In addition, those who lost weight over the study period at a faster rate were nearly three times more likely to develop dementia than those who lost weight more slowly over time. This result was more pronounced in those who were overweight or obese to start; those with a BMI of 23 or higher had an 82-percent reduced risk of developing the disease compared to those who were normal or underweight. The results were the same after testing for other health risk factors such as smoking, exercise and gender.

"Our finding suggests that losing weight quickly in older age may be an early sign of dementia," said study author Tiffany Hughes, PhD, MPH, who is with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine but conducted the research while she was a doctoral student at the University of South Florida. "This doesn't mean that being obese or overweight is healthy for the mind or body, but losing weight may be a sign of emerging brain disease."

Hughes says other current research shows that, in contrast, a larger belly in midlife may be a risk factor for dementia.

"Dementia has been shown to develop in the brain decades before any symptoms develop," Hughes said. "These findings likely reflect that process. In middle age, obesity may be a risk factor for dementia, while declining weight in late life may be considered one of the first changes from the disease that occurs before it actually affects a person's memory."

Source: American Academy of Neurology (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Brainwaves show how exercising to music bends your mind

February 18, 2018
Headphones are a standard sight in gyms and we've long known research shows listening to tunes can be a game-changer for your run or workout.

To sleep, perchance to forget

February 17, 2018
The debate in sleep science has gone on for a generation. People and other animals sicken and die if they are deprived of sleep, but why is sleep so essential?

Newborn babies who suffered stroke regain language function in opposite side of brain

February 17, 2018
It's not rare that a baby experiences a stroke around the time it is born. Birth is hard on the brain, as is the change in blood circulation from the mother to the neonate. At least 1 in 4,000 babies are affected shortly ...

Lab-grown human cerebellar cells yield clues to autism

February 16, 2018
Increasing evidence has linked autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with dysfunction of the brain's cerebellum, but the details have been unclear. In a new study, researchers at Boston Children's Hospital used stem cell technology ...

Fragile X syndrome neurons can be restored, study shows

February 16, 2018
Fragile X syndrome is the most frequent cause of intellectual disability in males, affecting one out of every 3,600 boys born. The syndrome can also cause autistic traits, such as social and communication deficits, as well ...

Brain-machine interface study suggests how brains prepare for action

February 16, 2018
Somewhere right now in Pyeongchang, South Korea, an Olympic skier is thinking through the twists and spins she'll make in the aerial competition, a speed skater is visualizing how he'll sneak past a competitor on the inside ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.