Obesity in Old Age Not Linked to Cognitive Decline

Rather, weight loss may signal early cognitive decline or Alzheimer disease

MONDAY, Sept. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Overweight and obesity in old age does not appear to predispose to cognitive decline, according to study findings published online Sept. 19 in Neurology.

Maureen T. Sturman, M.D., of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and colleagues investigated the association between body mass index (BMI) and cognitive decline in three biracial Chicago neighborhoods. The cognitive function of 3,885 community-dwelling adults aged 65 and older was assessed using four cognitive tests, from which a composite global cognitive functioning score was derived. Participants were followed over an average 6.4 years.

Higher BMI was associated with less cognitive decline in both black and non-black participants, after adjustment for age, sex, race, education and comorbid conditions. When researchers excluded individuals with baseline cognitive impairment from the analysis, the association between BMI and cognitive decline was lessened and no longer statistically significant.

"While past studies have found obesity in middle age increases a person's risk for dementia or Alzheimer disease, our findings show obesity in old age has no effect on a person's memory," Sturman said in a statement. "These findings are consistent with previous studies showing that weight loss or low BMI in old age may be a precursor of cognitive decline or Alzheimer disease," she added.

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