Weight and Dementia
By Evelyn Lee
February 10, 2023
UPDATED 12:00 PM EST
[Photo Credit: UPI]
A recent observational study involving over 2,000 subjects over the course of 39 years has shown that certain patterns of weight loss and gain are associated with the prevalence of dementia in later life. Dementia, which is the umbrella term for neurological disorders that involves the gradual loss of memory, mind-muscle coordination, and daily movements like eating or using the bathroom, has been thought to have been caused by the destruction of neurons and its connections. However, the cause for this destruction varies for each disease that has dementia as one of its symptoms. For instance, Alzheimer’s Disease is caused by the overaccumulation of tau proteins in the brain, which create tangles that disturb the neural connections within the brain. Huntington’s Disease is caused by the mutation to the HTT gene, which produces defective huntingtin protein and later leads to the destruction of the basal ganglia.
However, this research has shown that a gradual decline in weight, or more specifically, BMI, has been linked to a greater prevalence of dementia. Similar patterns have also been noted in brief periods of weight gain during one’s midlife followed by a longer period of weight loss. This data shows that dementia is something that can be impacted by lifestyle choices, like eating healthy, maintaining a healthy and stable weight, and regular exercise. However, there might be some variables that weren’t accounted for in the original study, like whether or not the weight fluctuations, especially the weight loss, was caused by disease or from eating a healthier diet (and losing the excess weight that way.) Furthermore, it’s been noted that while it may seem that the weight loss is what caused the prevalence in dementia, it might actually be the other way around. For instance, as one ages and develops the early signs of dementia, loss of taste and appetite might occur. As a result, the person starts to eat less and become more lethargic, which would provide an explanation behind the association between weight fluctuations and dementia.
Although the observational study has more work to be done, it’s certainly influential in its research topic, as previous research hasn’t gone in depth observing the relationship between these two variables.
Cross, Paul Ian, PhD. Dementia: Patterns of Weight Gain or Loss Later in Life May Predict Risk. 20 Dec. 2022, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/patterns-weight-gain-or-loss-later-in-life-may-predict-dementia-risk.
HTT Gene: MedlinePlus Genetics. medlineplus.gov/genetics/gene/htt.
Packer-Tursman, Judy. “Weight Gain and Loss Patterns, Body Mass Changes May Help Predict Dementia.” UPI, 15 Dec. 2022, www.upi.com/Health_News/2022/12/15/weight-patterns-BMI-dementia-study/3941671111546.