Being underweight may increase dementia risk
Being underweight in middle age may actually increase your risk of developing dementia later in life.
So says a research team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which has conducted the largest study connecting weight and dementia risk. The team analyzed medical records of more than 2 million people, covering a span of 20 years. Those in the group studied were aged 55 or older, and had an overweight median BMI of 26.5.
The researchers found that in just nine years, 45,507 people developed dementia. They also found that compared to those with a healthy BMI (20-25), middle-aged adults who were underweight - having a BMI lower than 20 - were 34 percent more likely to develop dementia. Comparatively, previous studies have shown that obesity may safeguard elderly adults against dementia risk.
The team noted that even after adjusting the data for other dementia risk factors, such as smoking and alcohol use, the results were similar. They were also unaffected by a person’s age at the time of their diagnosis or the decade in which they were born. The results were published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
The researchers said more studies should be done to better understand the mechanisms that connect dementia risk with being underweight.