Obesity weighs on Alzheimer's

A new study of people living with Alzheimer’s has found being overweight puts more pressure on brain health, possibly leading to accelerated damage.

The findings, published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports, also underscore the impact that being overweight in midlife could have on brain health in older age.

Lead author of the study, Professor Annalena Venneri from the University of Sheffield’s Neuroscience Institute, said waiting until your 60s to lose weight was too late.

“The diseases that cause dementia, such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, lurk in the background for many years,” Prof. Venneri told Timesnownews.com.

“It is important to stress this study does not show that obesity causes Alzheimer’s, but what it does show is that being overweight is an additional burden on brain health and it may exacerbate the disease,” she said.

“Prevention plays such an important role in the fight against the disease.”

Researchers from the University of Sheffield and the University of Eastern Finland studied MRI brain scans from 47 patients diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s, 68 patients with mild cognitive impairment and 57 cognitively healthy individuals, Timesnownews reported.

The novel study used three complementary, computational techniques to map the brain, its fibres and blood flow.

Scientists compared those images and measured differences in brain tissues to measure grey matter volume – which degenerates during the onset of Alzheimer’s – white matter integrity, cerebral blood flow and obesity.

In mild dementia patients, a positive association was found between obesity and grey matter volume around the right temporoparietal junction, suggesting that obesity might contribute toward neural vulnerability in cognitively healthy individuals and those with mild cognitive impairment.

With growing evidence that weight loss later in life can be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s, researchers also found that maintaining a healthy weight in sufferers of mild Alzheimer’s could help preserve brain structure.

“Weight loss is commonly one of the first symptoms in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease as people forget to eat or begin to snack on easy-to-grab foods like biscuits or crisps, in place of more nutritional meals,” said joint study author Dr Matteo De Marco from the University of Sheffield’s Neuroscience Institute.

“People don’t often think about the importance of nutrition in relation to neurological conditions, but these findings show it can help to preserve brain structure.”

Dementia Australia counts high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and obesity as major contributors to dementia, and heart health can be maintained and monitored by eating a healthy diet, not smoking and getting regular GP check-ups.

The support group also recommends staying active physically, socially and mentally to prevent or mitigate brain disease later in life.

Is Alzheimer’s a concern for you? Have you had experience of a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia?

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Written by Rebecca Tolan

Rebecca has worked in journalism for 20 years, been a DIY-er for more, and is in the middle of her very own grand design. Retirement seems a long way off! In her spare time she rows surfboats, plays volleyball with her kids and dreams of future holidays.

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