Obesity May Hasten the Onset of Alzheimer’s

Obesity has previously been associated with an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease; now, a new study points out that you could also develop the disease sooner if you’re overweight.

Researchers looked at midlife risk factors that could set off Alzheimer’s

The study, published in Molecular Psychiatry addressed the effect midlife obesity had on the onset as well as the severity of Alzheimer’s disease. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, a population-based cohort was used in this long-term study. Data was obtained for 1394 cognitively normal individuals, who were followed up roughly every 14 years. The basal metabolic rate (BMI) at the age 50 was used as a marker of midlife obesity. Participant brains were scanned for the presence and extent of tangled protein or plaques, which are like the cellular signatures of a brain with Alzheimer’s disease.

Midlife obesity associated with early Alzheimer’s onset

142 of the total number of participants developed Alzheimer’s during the span of the study. The researchers found that for every unit increase in midlife BMI, the onset of Alzheimer’s was 6.7 months earlier. They compared autopsy brain samples and brain imaging samples from non-demented participants, and found that participants with higher than normal midlife BMI had worse neuropathology. This means that higher BMI is associated with more protein tangles, which indicate worse disease outcomes.

Controlling midlife obesity could stave off Alzheimer’s

Although the study did not establish that midlife obesity causes Alzheimer’s disease, the strong correlation points to the possibility of delaying the onset of this debilitating disorder by maintaining a healthy body weight. It is believed that risk factors like high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes that are often coexistent with obesity could, as a combination, raise the risk for Alzheimer’s. While the mechanism for the observed effect isn’t clear, the researchers speculate that obesity puts the brain at a higher risk of inflammation and thereby a higher risk for developing the neurodegenerative condition. Alzheimer’s disease exacts tremendous amount of societal as well as economic resources; it is slated to become a trillion dollar disease by 2050. Therefore, lifestyle changes that could delay the illness would drastically relieve the economical burden and improve the disease-free quality of life for the older population.

Study finds out why Alzheimer’s affects women more

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