Obesity in Women is a Bigger Risk factor for Dementia Than Diet and Exercise

risk factor for dementia
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Midlife obesity in women increases the chances of suffering from dementia in older ages, says a new study by the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.  Sarah Floud, from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at Oxford, is the lead researcher and first author of this study. She explains that obesity is a bigger risk factor for dementia than food and exercise, the commonly considered risk factors for dementia. These research findings are published in the journal “Neurology” and are available online to view.

Floud and her co-researchers referred a few previous studies that link low body mass index (BMI) with chances of being diagnosed with dementia in the next 5–10 years. Likewise, other studies also show a connection between poor diet and no physical activity with the risk of dementia. However, dementia is only one of many possible health problems as a result of these two factors.

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In this current study, the preclinical stage showed gradual changes in behavior as well as mental impairment. They also linked recent meta-analyses that show a low BMI’s relation with dementia after a long period of time. It reveals that middle-age obesity has a clear link to dementia.

The research team studied 1,136,846 women from the U.K of average age 56 years between the years 1996 and 2001. At the time of this study, they were not diagnosed with dementia. They studied details of height, weight, daily calorie intake, a record of physical activity and observed them until 2017.  Meanwhile, visits to the hospital were also considered especially related to any chance of dementia. All these records were obtained via National Health Service records.

They considered a BMI of 20–24.9 as “normal and ” 25–29.9 as overweight. BMI over 30 was considered obese. Women who were exercising less than once a week were termed “inactive” and those who exercise at least one times in a week were declared “active”.

The link between this BMI and the risk of dementia was calculated by using the Cox regression models in the follow-up period that lasted till 2017.

During this period, approximately 89% of study participants did not mention dementia as a problem. In these 15 years of follow up, only 18,695 women were diagnosed with dementia. The details told that women who were obese when this study started were 21% more risk of having dementia than those who weren’t obese.  To be accurate, 2.2% of women from this study who were obese were likely to develop dementia in 17 years than those who had a healthy BMI.

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These findings open that low-calorie food intake and no exercise have some link with dementia but in comparison with obesity, this link is minimum. So obesity does play as a risk factor for dementia, especially in women.

Floud commented that previous studies suggest that a low calorie or poor diet along with no physical activity plays like risk factors for dementia but this new study finds that these factors can not predict dementia in the long term. The effect of diet and exercise with dementia is short term and it may progress the pre signs of dementia. However, the BMI of a patient has a direct link to being diagnosed with dementia in later years of life.

She further added that this study is only limited to women, for now, so it is difficult to say that the same applies to men or not. More detailed studies in this respect would describe obesity and dementia’s link in men.

About the author

Areeba Hussain

Graduated in Medical Microbiology, Areeba is working as a full-time medical writer for the last few years. She enjoys summarizing the latest researches into readable news to convey the recent advancements in medicine and human health.

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