Study finds age at obesity diagnosis may play a role in developing dementia
People who are severely obese in their 30s have an increased risk of dementia later in life, according to a recent study.
Researchers believe nearly 66 million people around the globe will have dementia by 2030, with the numbers expected to balloon to more than 115 million by 2050. A growing body of evidence suggests obesity may be linked to dementia.
For this study, published online in Postgraduate Medical Journal, researchers analyzed data from hospital records in England from 1999 to 2011. During the 12-year study period, 451,232 of those admitted to hospital were diagnosed with obesity.
For study participants aged 30 to 39, the risk of developing dementia was 3.5 times higher in obese patients than it was in those of the same age who were not obese. For those in their 40s, the equivalent heightened risk fell to 70 percent more; those in their 50s were 50 percent more likely to experience dementia. That risk was 40 percent for participants in their 60s and plummeted to just 22 percent for people in their 80s.
The study was observational, so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, but the findings confirm smaller studies showing an increased risk of dementia in young people who are obese.
Researchers suggest a possible explanation for the particularly high risk found in early to mid-life may lie in the fact that heavier weight is associated with diabetes and heart disease risk factors, both of which are linked to a heightened risk of dementia.
“While obesity at a younger age is associated with an increased risk of future dementia,” the researchers said, “obesity in people who have lived to about 60 to 80 years of age seems to be associated with a reduced risk.”
Though this study is from England, obesity is at epidemic proportions worldwide. African Americans have the highest obesity rates in this country, with African-American women tilting the scales at the heaviest rates.