A recent study has linked midlife obesity to dementia developing at an earlier age. According to the findings, being obese or overweight can heighten the risk of Alzheimer’s disease onset and it can also influence how soon the condition begins to manifest itself.
The research was published on September 1, in the “Nature” journal “Molecular Psychiatry” by a team of experts led by Madhav Thambisetty, from the National Institute of Aging.
The findings were collected after examining approximately 1,400 cognitively healthy subjects throughout a 14-year period, as part of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA).
142 of these participants developed the disease, and scientists made comparisons between their body mass index (BMI) and their age at Alzheimer’s onset, to see if there was any connection.
Researchers established that indeed, for every unit increase in BMI taking place at midlife, the age at which dementia’s symptoms appeared decreased by 6 ½ months.
In the experiment, the average onset of the disease was 83, and a healthy BMI is considered to be of up to 25. Basically, if a person had a BMI of 29, then symptoms of Alzheimer’s could appear more than 2 years in advance. Similarly, someone with a BMI of 32 could show signs of Alzheimer’s at 79, 4 years before the usual average.
Moreover, after performing MRIs and autopsies on those who had died following Alzheimer’s, experts concluded that a higher BMI resulted in a greater density in plaques and tangles, which are clear physical signs of the disease.
“Midlife overweight predicts earlier onset of AD and greater burden of Alzheimer’s neuropathology. A healthy BMI at midlife may delay the onset of AD”, explained the researchers.
Due to this discovery, the study authors urge people to make positive lifestyle changes and maintain a normal weight from an early age, so as to protect themselves from the negative consequences any potential surplus could have on their physical and mental well-being.
At the moment, 35 million people around the world are affected by Alzheimer’s, a disease which is characterized by progressive deterioration of the patient’s mental capacity. The neurodenegerative disorder results in significant memory loss, disability and death.
In the United States, there are approximately 5 million patients who have developed this disease. According to predictions, their number will double by 2050, as the American population ages, unless a cure is found in the meantime.
Consequently, although further studies must be conducted to establish with greater certainty the potential factors involved in developing Alzheimer’s, it is obvious that maintaining a healthy weight could only be beneficial for deterring the disease.
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