Weight added to dementia debate

Analysis of nearly two million Britons in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology showed underweight people had the highest risk of developing dementia, There is no cure or treatment for dementia with main advice being to reduce risk by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. A team at Oxon Epidemiology and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analysed medical records from 1,958,191 people aged 55, on average, for up to two decades. Their most conservative analysis showed underweight people had a 39% greater risk of dementia compared with being a healthy weight. Those who were overweight had an 18% reduction in dementia — and the figure was 24% for the obese.

“Yes, it is a surprise,” said lead researcher Dr Nawab Qizilbash. Any explanation for the protective effect is distinctly lacking. There is some evidence that vitamin D and E deficiencies contribute to dementia and these deficiencies may be less common in those who eat more food. Dr Qizilbash said the findings were not an excuse to pile on the pounds or binge on Easter adds, “You can’t walk away and think it’s OK to be overweight or obese. Even if there is a protective effect, you may not live long enough to get the benefits.”

Prof Deborah Gustafson, of SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York, added to the debate saying, “To understand the association between body mass index and late-onset dementia should sober us as to the complexity of identifying risk and protective factors for dementia. The report by Qizilbash and colleagues is not the final word on this controversial topic.”

Dr Qizilbash replied, “We would agree with that entirely.”


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