Feb 22, 2019 | Updated: 08:52 AM EST

Link Between Obesity and Alzheimer's Discovered -- Study

Sep 07, 2015 07:04 PM EDT

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A new research study performed by scientists from the National Institutes of Health reveals that midlife obesity can lead to developing Alzheimer's disease, and may also instigate an earlier onset of the illness.

According to the study with a large prospective base, performed at the National Institute on Aging, excess weight around middle age could also increase the risk for amyloid deposits and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. According to specialists, Alzheimer's starts ravaging the brain quietly more than a decade before the first symptoms appear.

From the participants in the study, during the follow-up phase, 142 of the them have developed the disease. Researchers have been trying to find some ways to delay the outset of the disease and it seems that a change in human lifestyle could be a possible option.

Dr. Madhav Thambisetty of National Institute on Aging, the expert who led the survey, explained that even though other field experts are aware of the fact that overweight people or people who are obese during their midlife years could be more vulnerable to developing Alzheimer's disease, they still cannot explain "how it may affect the age when the disease first begins."

Thambisetty said that by maintaining a healthy weight at midlife people are likely to gain a long-lasting protective effect. The research team studied how much those Alzheimer's patients weighed at the age of 50 while they were still cognitively healthy. The study findings suggest that, in average, Alzheimer's set in about seven months earlier for each unit increase in body mass index (BMI).

Men and women participating in the study had at 50 years an average BMI of 25.7. The researchers concluded that losing weight would decelerate the rate of onset. However, not all the overweight participants in the study developed the Alzheimer's disease. Also, the Alzheimer's study didn't track the fluctuations in patients' BMI before or after age 50, so more following studies might find more insights into the link between BMI and Alzheimer's.

Some of the participants in the Baltimore Longitudinal study underwent brain scans during life and autopsies at death. However, despite this alarming link between obesity and Alzheimer's, health researchers have yet to identify the elements that cause the illness to develop. 

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