Last Updated: September 12, 2018
According to recent research, people who are obese or overweight at the age of 50 could be at an earlier, increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Learn more about the connection between midlife weight and Alzheimer’s and the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and the disease.
While it is not known what specifically causes Alzheimer’s, previous studies have shown common risk factors include age and family history, in addition to the presence of the APOE-e4 gene. Studies have also shown a correlation between midlife obesity and the disease, but until now, researchers were not certain how weight was connected to an earlier risk of Alzheimer’s.
In a study recently published in Molecular Psychiatry, researchers from the Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) set out to learn more about the link between midlife obesity and the onset of early-Alzheimer’s.
The research team analyzed almost 1,400 adults with no signs of cognitive decline and assessed their BMI at the age of 50 years old. Then, researchers used cognitive assessments every 2 years for 14 years to find signs of Alzheimer’s. During the course of the study, over 140 participants went on to develop the disease.
Researchers found that participants who had a BMI of 25 or over at the age of 50 were likely to develop Alzheimer’s seven months sooner than participants who were at a healthy weight. The study also showed that the disease appeared earlier as BMI in midlife increased.
Subjects who had a BMI of 30 at the age of 50 were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s an entire year earlier than those who had a BMI of 28.
In addition to the nearly 1,400 participants, the research team also analyzed 191 deceased subjects. They found that of the deceased, those who had a higher BMI in midlife also had a higher amount of beta-amyloid proteins in the brain. Beta-amyloid proteins are a hallmark characteristic of Alzheimer’s and commonly thought to be a cause of the disease.
The study adds to recent evidence that lifestyle choices can make a difference when it comes to decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The study authors state, “Our findings raise the possibility that inexpensive, noninvasive interventions targeting midlife obesity and overweight could substantially alter the trajectory of Alzheimer’s disease, reducing its global public health and economic impact.”
More research will need to be done to determine if a lower BMI in midlife delays the disease and to see if there is a specific BMI where the risk of increases.
What do you think of the latest research to link weight to an earlier risk of Alzheimer’s? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.