Early to mid-life obesity linked to heightened risk of dementia in later life

August 20, 2014
Credit: Peter Häger/Public Domain

Obesity is linked to a heightened risk of dementia in later life, reveals an observational study published online in Postgraduate Medical Journal.

But the age at which a person is obese seems to be a key factor, the findings show, with an apparent tripling in risk for people in their 30s.

Estimates suggest that almost 66 million people around the globe will have by 2030, with the numbers predicted to top 115 million by 2050.

There is growing evidence that is linked to dementia, but the research indicates that risk may be heightened or lowered, depending on age. And as yet, no study has looked at the age related effect of obesity on dementia risk across the whole age range in the population of one country.

So the researchers decided to do this, using anonymised data from hospital records for the whole of England for the period 1999-2011. Data in which obesity had been recorded were then searched for any subsequent care for, or death from, dementia.

During the study period, 451 232 of those admitted to hospital in England were diagnosed with obesity, 43% of whom were men.

The analysis revealed an incremental decrease in overall risk of hospital admission for dementia the older a person was when a diagnosis of obesity was first recorded, irrespective of gender.

For those aged 30-39, the relative risk of developing dementia was 3.5 times higher than in those of the same age who were not obese. For those in their 40s, the equivalent heightened risk fell to 70% more; for those in their 50s to 50% more; and for those in their 60s to 40% more.

People in their 70s with obesity were neither at heightened or lowered risk of developing dementia, while those in their 80s were 22% less likely to develop the disease, the findings indicated.

There were some age differences between the risk of developing vascular dementia or Alzheimer's disease, with those in their 30s at greater risk of both. A diagnosis of obesity in the 40s through to the 60s was associated with an increased risk of , while the risk of Alzheimer's disease was lower in those diagnosed with obesity from their 60s onwards.

This is an observational study, so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. But the findings confirm smaller published studies from elsewhere which report an increased risk of dementia in young people who are obese, but a reduced risk in older obese people, say the researchers.

They venture that a possible explanation for the particularly high risk found in early to mid-life may lie in the fact that heavier weight is associated with diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors, which are themselves linked to a heightened risk of dementia.

And it would seem that if people can stave off significant weight gain until at least their 60s, or survive long enough with obesity, they may have a lower risk of developing dementia, they suggest.

"While obesity at a younger age is associated with an of future dementia, obesity in people who have lived to about 60-80 years of age seems to be associated with a reduced risk," they conclude.

Explore further: Vitamin D deficiency linked to increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease

Related Stories

Vitamin D deficiency linked to increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease

August 8, 2014
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease in older people.

Packing on the pounds in middle age linked to dementia

May 2, 2011
According to a new study, being overweight or obese during middle age may increase the risk of certain dementias. The research is published in the May 3, 2011, print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American ...

One in three cases of Alzheimer's worldwide potentially preventable, new estimate suggests

July 14, 2014
A third of Alzheimer's disease cases worldwide can be attributed to risk facts that can be potentially modified, such as lack of education and physical inactivity, according to NIHR-funded research published in The Lancet ...

Diabetes may significantly increase your risk of dementia

September 19, 2011
People with diabetes appear to be at a significantly increased risk of developing dementia, according to a study published in the September 20, 2011, print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of ...

Physical activity is beneficial for late-life cognition

April 9, 2014
Physical activity in midlife seems to protect from dementia in old age, according to a study carried out at the University of Eastern Finland. Those who engaged in physical activity at least twice a week had a lower risk ...

Recommended for you

Lifestyle changes to stave off Alzheimer's? Hints, no proof

July 20, 2017
There are no proven ways to stave off Alzheimer's, but a new report raises the prospect that avoiding nine key risks starting in childhood just might delay or even prevent about a third of dementia cases around the world.

Blood test identifies key Alzheimer's marker

July 19, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that measures of amyloid beta in the blood have the potential to help identify people with altered levels of amyloid in their ...

Steering an enzyme's 'scissors' shows potential for stopping Alzheimer's disease

July 19, 2017
The old real estate adage about "location, location, location" might also apply to the biochemical genesis of Alzheimer's disease, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.

Brain scans may change care for some people with memory loss

July 19, 2017
Does it really take an expensive brain scan to diagnose Alzheimer's? Not everybody needs one but new research suggests that for a surprising number of patients whose memory problems are hard to pin down, PET scans may lead ...

Can poor sleep boost odds for Alzheimer's?

July 18, 2017
(HealthDay)— Breathing problems during sleep may signal an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease, a trio of studies suggests.

Hearing is believing: Speech may be a clue to mental decline

July 17, 2017
Your speech may, um, help reveal if you're uh ... developing thinking problems. More pauses, filler words and other verbal changes might be an early sign of mental decline, which can lead to Alzheimer's disease, a study suggests.

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.