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Fast Weight Decline in Old Age May Increase Dementia Risk

Last Updated: May 19, 2009.

Higher body mass index late in life is associated with a lowered risk of developing dementia with further aging, according to a study reported in the May 19 issue of Neurology.

TUESDAY, May 19 (HealthDay News) -- Higher body mass index (BMI) late in life is associated with a lowered risk of developing dementia with further aging, according to a study reported in the May 19 issue of Neurology.

T.F. Hughes, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and colleagues followed a cohort of 1,836 Japanese Americans living in King County, Wash., who had enrolled in the Kame Project from 1992 to 1994 (no dementia at baseline, mean age of 71.8 years). The researchers tracked the cohort to 2001 to measure the incidence of dementia, including Alzheimer disease and vascular dementia, and their association with several biometric factors, including BMI, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio. Risks for dementia were calculated using Cox proportional hazards models adjusted for demographic and lifestyle factors and comorbidities.

The researchers found that the subjects with higher baseline BMI had a reduced risk of Alzheimer disease (hazard ratio, 0.56) after adjustment. Slower rate of decrease in BMI with aging also was associated with a reduced risk of dementia (hazard ratio, 0.37), an association that was stronger for those who were overweight at baseline (hazard ratio, 0.18) compared to those who were of normal weight or underweight (hazard ratio, 1.00).

"Higher baseline BMI and slower declining BMI in late life are associated with a reduced risk of dementia, suggesting that low BMI or a faster decline in BMI in late life may be preclinical indicators of an underlying dementing illness, especially for those who were initially overweight or obese," the authors conclude.

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