Can Being Overweight Increase the Risk of Dementia?

Written by Active Minds on Wednesday the 4th of April 2018.

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In recent years there have a been a number of studies that have looked at the relationship between weight and a dementia diagnosis. Whilst previous research has shown huge disparity, with some studies seemingly proving that increased weight gain poses higher dementia risk, and others showing a link towards lower weight increasing dementia diagnosis, more recent studies have started to consistently show the former to be true.

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One such study took place last year at the University College London and looked at the health records of 1,349,857 dementia-free adults across 39 different countries. Researchers first made note of each participants weight and height. There progression was then tracked over a long period of time, using health records, prescribed medication and death registries, to ascertain the outcome of each individual.

Amongst the participants, 6,894 developed dementia, and it was concluded that a higher BMI was a factor in predicting some of these outcomes. In fact, the study concluded that each 5 unit increase in BMI was associated with a 16-33% higher risk of the disease.

Another similar study took place in Sweden in 2011, and looked at 8, 534 sets of twins. Again, this study looked at the correlation of weight gain to dementia diagnosis. It concluded that anyone who is deemed clinically overweight, which is a BMI of between 25 and 30, were 70% more likely to develop the disease than someone with a healthy BMI of between 20 and 25. Additionally, people who are classed as obese, a BMI greater than 30, were 288% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia.

This study goes to further prove a correlation between weight gain in earlier life and a dementia diagnosis and illustrates that leading a healthy life, eating well and exercising regularly, can help reduce your risk of developing dementia.