Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

Changes in BMI and obesity may be determinants of dementia risk

The Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine at Boston University, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, and Peking Union Medical College have demonstrated that different patterns of changes in BMI may be a determinant of dementia risk throughout a person's life.

Dementia is a major global public health hazard. Presently it affects 50 million people and is anticipated to climb rapidly to more than 150 million cases by 2050.Obesity is a global epidemic, and previous research revealed that obesity in midlife may increase the risk of dementia. However, the link between BMI and dementia risk is yet unknown.

These findings were published online in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Alzheimer’s Association Journal.

“These findings are important because previous studies that looked at weight trajectories didn’t consider how patterns of weight gain/stability/loss might help signal that dementia is potentially imminent,” explained corresponding author Rhoda Au, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and neurobiology.


A set of individuals in the Framingham Heart Study were tracked for 39 years. Their weight was assessed every 2-4 years. The researchers studied distinct weight trends between people who became demented and those who did not.

They discovered that the general trend of decreased BMI was linked to an increased chance of getting dementia. Further investigation revealed a subgroup with a trend of first increasing BMI followed by dropping BMI. Both happenned within midlife, which looked to be key to the declining BMI-dementia connection.

Weight monitoring is generally simple for people, family members, and primary care providers, according to Au. “If following a continuous gain in weight as one ages, there is a sudden change to decreasing weight beyond midlife, it may be beneficial to talk with one’s healthcare professional to determine why.

There are some potential medicines on the horizon, and early diagnosis may be important to the efficacy of any of these treatments once they are licensed and made available “She continues.

Key take away:

The researchers believe that this study shows how dementia is developed. It demonstrate that the seeds of dementia risk are sown across many years, if not the entire lifespan. 

Dementia is not necessarily inevitable. Monitoring risk indicators such as as weight patterns, might offer opportunities for early intervention that can change the trajectory of disease onset and progression.

By Editor

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