A new study has suggested that losing weight in middle age could be an early sign that a person is developing mild cognitive impairment - a precursor to dementia.
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in the US looked at data from more than 1,800 participants who didn't have dementia and followed them for just over four years. The average age of people taking part in the study was 78 years old, so the team used medical records to establish height and weight measurements from middle age.
Their objective was to see whether any participants would show signs of mental cognitive impairment. In total, 524 people were diagnosed with the condition, but the risk was much greater if they had experienced significant weight loss in previous decades.
They found that those who lost more than 11 lbs per decade were 24 per cent more likely to develop the condition. However, the researchers say it is difficult to establish whether any weight loss recorded was intentional or not.
Lead researcher of the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Dr Rosebud Roberts said: "Our findings suggest that an increasing rate of weight loss from midlife to late life is a marker for MCI and may help identify persons at increased risk of MCI.”
Around 15 per cent of people with mild cognitive impairment, which causes problems with memory and thinking, will go on to develop dementia. It is seen as a significant warning sign that a person could be diagnosed with dementia.
Hilda Hayo, chief executive and chief admiral nurse at Dementia UK, said although mild cognitive impairment is not an early stage dementia, people with the condition are five times more likely to develop dementia.
She added that the study has identified a possible link between weight loss from mid to late life and developments of the condition, however there are other variables that could have caused the weight loss and also increased the likelihood of being diagnosed.
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