Can a bad diet lead to dementia?

2013October13_Motivation_A Piling on excess pounds might make you worry about the way you look. And if you really start to expand and your Body Mass Index (BMI) rises then health issues may start to concern you – especially as overweight people run a higher risk of developing diabetes or a cardiovascular disorder. However, one thing that you might not have considered is that that extra weight can have an impact on your mental faculties. This seems to borne out by the results of a recent studies. Let’s look at what they found out.

As if putting on extra when you hit middle age isn’t bad enough, it now seems that an increased BMI is also linked to the risk of dementia.

The Swedish study

Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm studied over 8,000 twins aged 65 or older who had had their BMI calculated 30 years previously. Approximately 30% were overweight or obese at the time these measurements were taken.  It was found that 350 of the total group had been diagnosed with dementia in later life, with a further 114 possibly showing signs of the disease. The findings suggested that your chances of developing dementia once you were older was 80% higher if you were overweight or obese during your mid-life point.

The Australian study

The bodyweight of over 25,000 people aged between 40 and 60 was looked at from long-term studies, in relation to developing dementia figures after the age of 60. Professor Kaarin Anstey, from the Australian National University College of Medicine’s Centre for Mental Health Research ascertained that there was a link.

“We found that in mid-life, being overweight does in fact increase the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. This risk is even greater for those who fall into the category of obese.” She goes on to state, “This evidence suggests that, while the hormones present in body-fat were previously believed to protect cognitive function, excess fat in middle age is in fact extremely harmful.”

Weight not the only factor

However, BMI and obesity is not always a simple measurement when it comes to a blanket overview of health. After all, in many cases, ill health can lead to weight loss. And there is what is called the obesity paradox, where studies show that people with excess weight have fared better than normal weight people when dealing with chronic conditions. Ageing also causes people to lose much of their muscle mass too. There is no denying though, that obesity is a growing problem worldwide, no pun intended, and its impact on the body and the systems of the body, including those that affect the brain, can be substantial.

Some overweight people may be fitter than their slimmer counterparts and it is important to understand that fatness does not mean a lack of fitness any more than being thin means you are in great shape physically. The important point is to pursue a healthy lifestyle and diet and the rest will follow.

There are genetic and early-life dietary influences that all play a part in shaping physical strengths and weaknesses, as well as your approach to life and attitude to health in general. But in the end of course, each person can choose what they next put on their plate and eat. so it always pays to choose carefully. Think of it as not just eating for today, but for the next few decades or so.

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