Weight loss in middle age linked to dementia
Scientists found that people who lost weight between midlife and their 70s were more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI) which causes memory and thinking problems.
MCI is an early stage of dementia. A study by the Mayo Clinic in the US found that people who lost more than 5kg per decade, over a four-year period were 24pc more likely to develop the condition. Normally around one quarter of people would be diagnosed with MCI during that time, but weight loss raised the chance to one in three.
Lead researcher Dr Rosebud Roberts said: "Our findings suggest that an increasing rate of weight loss from midlife to late life is a marker for MCI and may help identify persons at increased risk of MCI."
Scientists followed more than 1,800 people with an average age of 78 for four years. They also scanned their medical records to find out how their weight had changed since middle age. A total of 524 were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment during that time but the risk was much greater for those who had experience greater weight loss in the preceding decades. Researchers could not determine if the weight loss was intentional.
Those who developed MCI were older, more likely to be carriers of a specific gene, and more likely to have diabetes, hypertension, stroke or coronary artery disease compared with study participants who remained cognitively normal.
Dr James Pickett, head of research at the UK Alzheimer's Society, said: "While the evidence on body weight and dementia is unclear, we know that making positive lifestyle choices can help people keep their brains healthy - taking regular exercise, not smoking and following a healthy balanced diet. It is not unusual for people to lose weight as they get older, but anyone concerned about large, unintentional weight loss should speak to their doctor."
Dr Laura Phipps, of Alzheimer's Research UK, added: "This study highlights a possible link between weight changes in the decades after middle age and the risk of developing memory and thinking problems that can precede dementia. (© Daily Telegraph London)