Both weight loss and weight gain could increase the risk of dementia amongst the elderly.
A study has revealed that, amongst the over 60s, a 10% decrease in BMI over two years increases the risk of developing illnesses linked to cognitive decline.
The link between weight and dementia
Studies have historically shown a link between obesity and inflammations which can trigger cognitive problems. Now, however, it is weight loss which appears to be linked to underlying medical issues such as cardiovascular problems or even cancer. This research has been undertaken by Professor Jim-Wom Kwon and his team at the Kyungpook National University in South Korea.
In a study published in the scientific journal BMJ Open, researchers assured that “our results suggest that maintaining a consistent weight, going for regular medical check-ups, and keeping a healthy lifestyle can all contribute towards preventing dementia, even amongst elderly people.
Dementia: a severe illness and a financial burden
It is estimated that around 50 million people worldwide are affected by dementia, and according to the World Health Organisation, this is on the increase. Every year, 10 million more cases of dementia are recorded, and it is expected that by 2030, there will be 82 million sufferers of cognitive illness, increasing to 152 million by 2050. Experts predict that the total expenditure on dementia in 2015 was around 729 billion euros (818 billion dollars), accounting for 1.1% of global GDP.
To obtain these results, researchers have analysed the statistics of 67,219 people aged between 60 and 79. After 5 years, 4,887 of the men and 6,685 of the women who had took part in the study had developed some form of dementia. The results have shown that the men who had increased their BMI by 10% had shown a 25% greater chance of developing some form of cognitive decline. The risk was 17% greater amongst women who had also gained weight.
Insofar as weight loss is concerned, men who had decreased their BMI by 10% experienced an increased risk of 26% for developing illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, whereas amongst women, the increase of suffering from cognitive problems was 15%. According to Dr James Pickett, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, “although this research suggests that rapid weight change amongst those of a certain age could be linked to risks of dementia, it is hard to distinguish cause and effect. For example, people showing early signs of dementia often suffer from loss of appetite”.
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