Excess Weight at Age 50 Tied to Earlier Alzheimer’s Onset


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Being obese at age 50 may be tied to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease at a younger age.

Previous studies have shown that being overweight at midlife is associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Now researchers have found that it also predicts occurrence at a younger age.

Scientists studied 1,394 cognitively normal people, average age around 60, following them for an average of 14 years. During the study, 142 developed Alzheimer’s.

After controlling for age, race, level of education and cardiovascular risk factors, they found that each unit increase in B.M.I., or body mass index, at age 50 was associated with a 6.7-month decrease in the age of onset of Alzheimer’s.

The study, in Molecular Psychiatry, also found an association of higher B.M.I. with larger deposits of neurofibrillary tangles on autopsy, one of the characteristics of brain damage in Alzheimer’s disease.

“Age of onset is not as well studied as risk,” said the senior author, Dr. Madhav Thambisetty, a neurologist at the National Institute on Aging. “As we try to cure Alzheimer’s disease, we also want to delay the onset of symptoms. Until we know what factors accelerate onset, we won’t be able to test any potential interventions. And that is perhaps as important as the search for treatment.”

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