A new study published in Molecular Psychiatry suggests that individuals who are obese or overweight at the age of 50 could be at a higher risk of developing an earlier onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Past studies have suggested that there is a link between midlife obesity and an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but study researchers, co-lead by Dr. Madhav Thambisetty of the Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), believed the association was unclear.
For their study, the team analyzed 1,394 cognitively normal adults who took part in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging.
To properly assess the impact of midlife obesity and the increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the team assessed each participant’s body mass index (BMI) at midlife—the age of 50—and their development of Alzheimer’s. They used neurological assessments every two years for an average of 14 years. During the follow-up assessments, 142 participants developed Alzheimer’s.
Researchers found that participants who were obese or overweight in midlife, and who had a BMI of 25 or greater, had an increased chance of developing Alzheimer’s—approximately 6.7 months sooner than the participants who were at healthy weights.
Furthermore, researchers discovered that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s earlier rose with each unit increase in midlife BMI. Participants with a BMI of 30 in midlife were likely to develop Alzheimer’s a year earlier than participants who had a BMI of 28.
“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,” study researchers conclude.
Alzheimer’s disease affects about 5.3 million Americans. Approximately 5.1 million of those are aged 65 and older.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Whiteman, H., “Overweight, Obesity in Midlife Linked to Earlier Onset of Alzheimer’s,” Medical News Today web site, September 2, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/298936.php.
Thambisetty, M., et al., “Midlife adiposity predicts earlier onset of Alzheimer’s dementia, neuropathology and presymptomatic cerebral amyloid accumulation,” Molecular Psychiatry 2015, doi:10.1038/mp.2015.129, http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/mp2015129a.html.