DEC 22, 2019 10:18 AM PST

Midlife Obesity, not Diet, Increases Dementia Risk

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

A new study on over 1 milion women in the UK has found that women who are obese during their 50’s are at a higher risk than women with healthier physiques. They however found no correlation between calorie intake and physical activity, and the onset of dementia. 

Previously, studies have found a link between a low body mass index (BMI) and the likelihood of being diagnosed with dementia within 5-10 years. Others have suggested a link between poor diet and a lack of exercise with the onset of dementia. Yet, new findings from a study at Oxford University, UK now suggest that these results may indeed stem from a reverse causality, meaning that rather than triggering the disease, they are in fact consequences. 

For the study, researchers examined data from 1,136,864 women in the UK at an average age of 56 years. Free from dementia at the beginning of the study, between 1996 and 2001, the health of these women was tracked until 2017 using records from the country’s National Health Service. 

During their research, a BMI of 20-24.9 was considered “desirable”, 25-29.9 as overweight, and 30 and over as obese. Women who exercised less than once per week were considered “inactive: whereas those who exercised at least once per week were seen as active. 

Using Cox regression models, the researchers calculated the relationships between BMI and the incidence of dementia over the follow-up period, adjusting for variables such as age, cigarette intake, education and residential area. 

During the period analyzed, 11% of the women, or 18,695 of the original cohort, received a dementia diagnosis. In total, the researchers found that women who were obese at the start of the study period were 21% more likely to receive a dementia diagnosis than those with a BMI’s under 24.9. Moreover, they found that 2.2% of obese women developed dementia in the long term, whereas the same could be said about just 1.7% of those with healthier BMI’s. 

Although low calorie intake and less physical activity seemed to be linked to a higher risk for dementia during the study’s first decade, the link seemed to lose strength later on. Lead author of the study, Sarah Floud, said, “The short-term links between dementia, inactivity, and low calorie intake are likely to be the result of the earliest signs of the disease, before symptoms start to show.”

This may be the case as cognitive deficits usually begin around a decade before a formal diagnosis of dementia. These cognitive deficits usually appear gradually, but may impair both mental and physical activity, as well as reduce food intake and calories, eventually leading to weight loss. 

Floud continued, “On the other hand, obesity in midlife was linked with dementia 15 or more years later. Obesity is a well-established risk factor for cerebrovascular disease. Cerebrovascular disease contributes to dementia later in life."


Sources: Medical News Today, Medscape and the Daily Mail  

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
You May Also Like
AUG 31, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
A Treatment Avenue Opens for a Rare Disorder
AUG 31, 2020
A Treatment Avenue Opens for a Rare Disorder
Krabbe disease or globoid cell leukodystrophy is a rare and deadly disorder that affects about one in every 100,000 infa ...
SEP 21, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Why Do We Build Tolerance to Cannabis?
SEP 21, 2020
Why Do We Build Tolerance to Cannabis?
Many notice that after regularly smoking cannabis, it takes more and more to feel its effects- if any at all. While abst ...
OCT 01, 2020
Immunology
Immune Cells and MS: The Good, the Bad, and the Maybe
OCT 01, 2020
Immune Cells and MS: The Good, the Bad, and the Maybe
Much like electrical wires that are encased in plastic insulating sheaths, nerve cells also are also surrounded by a sim ...
OCT 20, 2020
Immunology
The Immune Pause Button Slowing MS Progression
OCT 20, 2020
The Immune Pause Button Slowing MS Progression
  Scientists have a new theory about the genetics behind the progressive, debilitating effects of multiple sclerosi ...
NOV 08, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Can Cannabis Treat Epilepsy?
NOV 08, 2020
Can Cannabis Treat Epilepsy?
There has been growing interest in recent years for cannabis to treat central nervous system disorders. And so far, ther ...
NOV 09, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
New Immunotherapy Shows Promise for MS
NOV 09, 2020
New Immunotherapy Shows Promise for MS
Researchers from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia are studying an immunotherapy that has shown early pro ...
Loading Comments...