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Rapid weight loss or gain when elderly could be sign of Alzheimer's

Henry Bodkin
The researchers studied 67,000 older people - PA

Elderly people who experience significant weight gain or loss may be at an increased risk of developing dementia, new research suggests.

A study, published in journal BMJ Open, found a link between late-life changes to Body Mass Index (BMI) and onset of the neurological condition.

The researchers, from South Korea, said the findings suggest the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle in old age.

Data from more than 67,000 people, aged between 60 and 79 years old, was analysed as part of the study.

BMI was measured in 2002 to 2003 and again between 2004 and 2005, while the incidence of dementia was monitored for an average of five years between 2008 and 2013.

Men and women who experienced rapid weight change - defined as a 10 per cent increase or decrease in BMI over a two-year period - had around a 20 per cent higher risk of dementia compared to those whose weight remained stable, the researchers said.

BMI at the start of the study was not linked with dementia incidence in either sex, apart from among men with a low body weight.

The researchers suggest that weight gain, and associated increase in fat mass, may affect dementia development.

They add that weight loss could be an early symptom of the condition.

"Both weight gain and weight loss may be significant risk factors associated with dementia," the researchers said.

"This study revealed that severe weight gain, uncontrolled diabetes, smoking and less physical activity in late-life had a detrimental effect on dementia development.

"Our results suggest that continuous weight control, disease management and the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle are beneficial in the prevention of dementia, even in later life."