Unintentional Weight Loss a Marker for Alzheimer Disease

Accelerated, unexplained weight decrease can be preclinical marker

MONDAY, Sept. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Although the exact etiology is unknown, accelerated weight loss can be a precursor for the onset of dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT) in adults aged 65 to 95 years, according to a study in the September issue of Archives of Neurology.

David K. Johnson, Ph.D., of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues investigated weight changes in 449 adults enrolled as controls in a longitudinal study of aging. The subjects did not have dementia at baseline and were followed for six years with yearly weighing.

At the last follow-up, 60 men and 65 women had DAT and 132 men and 192 women did not show signs of dementia. Those who developed DAT were 4.6 years older and weighed 8.2 pounds less at enrollment than subjects who did not develop DAT. More subjects with DAT were likely to be widowed, have poorer health and more depression than those without DAT. Subjects who developed DAT had double the weight loss (1.2 pounds/year) compared to subjects without DAT. The decrease began about one year before symptoms of DAT were detected.

Aging with and without DAT is associated with weight loss, the report indicates. Although specific factors contributing to weight loss are unknown, the "data suggest they operate before the development of DAT. Hence, weight loss may be a preclinical indicator of Alzheimer disease," the authors conclude.

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