Study Links Obesity and Dementia, Recommends MedDiet

Following the Mediterranean diet and other healthy lifestyle habits helps people maintain a normal body mass index and, in turn, lowers the risks of developing dementia later in life, researchers found.
Jul. 22, 2020
Lisa Anderson

Recent News

New research from the University College of London (UCL) has found that weight man­age­ment could play an impor­tant role in low­er­ing the risk of devel­op­ing demen­tia.

Adhering to a healthy and bal­anced eat­ing plan, such as the Mediterranean diet, is one of the best ways to main­tain an opti­mum weight level and mit­i­gate the risks of devel­op­ing the brain dis­ease, one of the study’s lead authors said.

The fact that the lifestyle behav­iors are mod­i­fi­able implies that encour­ag­ing a healthy lifestyle may pre­vent or ame­lio­rate under­ly­ing cere­brovas­cu­lar and car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk fac­tors that could also present a demen­tia risk.- Dorina Cadar, senior research fel­low, UCL

In recent years adher­ence to a Mediterranean-style diet has received con­sid­er­able inter­est in assess­ing its poten­tial role in low­er­ing the risk of heart dis­ease, high cho­les­terol, obe­sity, type 2 dia­betes, hyper­ten­sion, can­cer and cere­brovas­cu­lar dis­eases, includ­ing demen­tia,” Dorina Cadar, a senior research fel­low spe­cial­iz­ing in demen­tia at UCL, told Olive Oil Times.

We found that peo­ple who had a body mass index (BMI) in the obese range had a 31 per­cent higher risk of demen­tia than those with a BMI in the nor­mal range, inde­pen­dent of their age, edu­ca­tional sta­tus, mar­i­tal sta­tus, smok­ing, dia­betes, hyper­ten­sion and apolipopro­tein E4 car­rier sta­tus,” she added.

See Also:Health News

Apolipoprotein E is a pro­tein that assists with the metab­o­lism of fats in the body, with the E4 ver­sion being the most promi­nent known genetic risk fac­tor for late-onset spo­radic Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

Cadar led the obser­va­tional study, which began in 2002 and includes data from 6,582 peo­ple aged 50 years or older. Study par­tic­i­pants were mon­i­tored bien­ni­ally, and are still being observed.


The UCL research has been done in asso­ci­a­tion with the English Longitudinal Study of Aging.

A well-bal­anced diet is an essen­tial ele­ment of a healthy lifestyle that may be a facil­i­tat­ing fac­tor in main­tain­ing an opti­mal weight and suc­cess­ful, healthy aging for mind, body and soul,” Cadar said.

The Mediterranean diet tends to avoid the red meat and dairy prod­ucts that are the source of most sat­u­rated fats in the typ­i­cal Western diet and to embrace mod­est alco­hol con­sump­tion – mostly wine – gen­er­ally dur­ing meals,” she added.

Besides a well-bal­anced diet, the recent study also found other key com­po­nents in achiev­ing a nor­mal body mass index (BMI) were phys­i­cal exer­cise and reduced alco­hol con­sump­tion.

I think it is essen­tial to con­sider all the healthy lifestyle behav­iors holis­ti­cally. A healthy diet is not enough if exer­cise is miss­ing from someone’s life,” Cadar said. My hypoth­e­sis is that pos­i­tive lifestyle behav­iors such as non-smok­ing, being phys­i­cally active, choos­ing health­ier diets, drink­ing in mod­er­a­tion and low­er­ing stress may pro­tect our hearts and slow cog­ni­tive decline in later life.”

The fact that the lifestyle behav­iors are mod­i­fi­able implies that encour­ag­ing a healthy lifestyle may pre­vent or ame­lio­rate under­ly­ing cere­brovas­cu­lar and car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk fac­tors that could also present a demen­tia risk,” she added.

Cadar said it is also pos­si­ble that the asso­ci­a­tion between obe­sity and demen­tia might be indi­rectly caused by other con­di­tions, such as high blood pres­sure and anti­cholin­er­gic treat­ments.

Anticholinergics block the action of acetyl­choline, a sub­stance that trans­mits mes­sages in the ner­vous sys­tem.

However, some recent stud­ies have found that obe­sity could be con­sid­ered a pro­tec­tive health fac­tor in older peo­ple.

Although it has become evi­dent that excess body fat increases the risk of demen­tia through meta­bolic and vas­cu­lar path­ways, as pre­sented in our study, we also need to acknowl­edge that there are some con­flict­ing infor­ma­tion from pre­vi­ous stud­ies sug­gest­ing that the asso­ci­a­tion between obe­sity and demen­tia remains unclear or that obe­sity may even be a pro­tec­tive fac­tor for demen­tia among older indi­vid­u­als,” Cadar said.

She added that there could be a num­ber of expla­na­tions for this, with more research across life stages needed.

Cadar explained that when obe­sity is seen as pro­tec­tive in older peo­ple, it is gen­er­ally because those diag­nosed with demen­tia have lost weight prior to a diag­no­sis.

Eating and drink­ing well are impor­tant for stay­ing healthy at any age,” she said. A healthy diet is likely to improve a per­son’s qual­ity of life.”

Significantly, the UCL study found a gen­der dif­fer­ence in the risk of demen­tia asso­ci­ated with obe­sity.

Interestingly, women with abdom­i­nal obe­sity (a high waist cir­cum­fer­ence) had a 39 per­cent increased risk of demen­tia com­pared with women with­out abdom­i­nal obe­sity, but this par­tic­u­lar asso­ci­a­tion was not found among the men,” Cadar said.

The find­ings of the study were pub­lished in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

At the time, Andrew Steptoe, a co-author of the study, said demen­tia is one of the major health chal­lenges of the 21st cen­tury that could threaten suc­cess­ful aging. He added their find­ings sug­gest ris­ing obe­sity rates will exac­er­bate the prob­lem.



Related Articles

Feedback / Suggestions