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Women with Dementia Lose Weight Long Before Diagnosis

No evidence of similar losses among men

MONDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Dementia in women is characterized by a steady loss of weight that begins years before the condition is diagnosed, according to a report published in the Aug. 21 issue of Neurology. The study found no evidence of weight loss associated with dementia in men.

David S. Knopman, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues used records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project to match 295 dementia patients (219 women and 76 men, diagnosed between 1990 and 1994) with an equal number of controls. The weight of subjects and their matched controls were determined to be the same at 21 and 30 years prior to the onset of dementia.

In the decade preceding diagnosis, women with dementia showed a median weight loss of eight pounds, compared to two pounds median weight loss among their matched controls. Age at onset of dementia was not a factor. Evidence of the difference in weight loss between dementia patients and controls was observed up to 20 years prior to diagnosis, but not before that. The degree of difference increased over time.

The study's authors suggest a number of social and physiological factors that might explain their findings, including "predementia apathy, loss of initiative, and reduced olfactory function."

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