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After reading about the many harmful effects of obesity on our health, there is another bad news for people who have piled up on those extra kilos- middle age obesity may lead to dementia later in life.

Middle age obesity may lead to Dementia

The researchers at the Karolinksa Institute in Stockholm, under the leadership of Dr. Weilli Xu, conducted a study to find the relationship between middle age obesity and dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia in later years. They also wanted to check out whether these conditions may be a result of genetic and early life environmental factors.

For their study, Xu and her associates examined around 9,000 Swedish twins for several years. They collected information about the height and weight when the participants were 43 years of age. They again examined these twins after thirty years for decline in their thinking and memory skills and development of Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia. They found that almost one third of the participants were overweight and had 80% more likelihood of developing these diseases as compared to people with a normal weight. Almost 4% of the twins had developed signs of dementia and the proportion was higher if they weighed more in mid- life.

Being overweight may be due to a genetic predisposition or because of poor dietary habits. Whatever be the reason, mid- life obesity has been linked to increased risk for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases which in turn may increase the chances of developing dementia.

What you eat today may reflect on your health after 30 to 40 years

Another earlier study done by researchers from Kaiser Permanente, measured the waist size of 6,583 people between the age of 40 and 45 and followed them up when they were 70 years old. They found that there was a 270% greater risk of developing dementia in 20% of people with a larger than normal waistline. The research concluded that the chances of dementia almost triple if the people have a big waistline in their 40s.

Dementia is an assortment of symptoms, like personality changes, behavioral problems and cognitive difficulties affecting the brain. Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are two most common causes of these symptoms.

The most common risk factors of dementia which can be controlled by us include hypertension, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, diabetes, smoking and heavy drinking. These factors can be modified by taking a healthy diet, regular exercising and maintaining a normal weight.

It is said that what you eat today reflects on your health after 30 to 40 years. Eating sensibly today and maintaining a normal weight may prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia long before their signs and symptoms become apparent.

What is the exact reason behind the association of middle age obesity and dementia in later life is not exactly known. But it is believed that the fat tissue present in the body is responsible for releasing hormones and signals which slow down the working of the brain.

It is said that what is good for your heart is good for your brain as well. So do not wait for the signs and symptoms of dementia to show up. Start exercising and eat a healthy diet from early on in the life to remain an alert and agile individual in your old age.

  • W.L. Xu, MD, PhD at all. Midlife overweight and obesity increase late-life dementia risk. A population-based twin study. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182190d09 Neurology May 3, 2011 vol. 76 no. 18 1568-1574
  • Large waist 'an Alzheimer's risk'. 27 March 2008. BBC News.
  • Photo courtesy of Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose by Flickr :