Research involving nearly 2 million Brits investigates obesity-dementia link

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A massive study involving nearly 2 million Brits has for the first time ever looked in to the relationship between obesity and dementia and the findings challenge the prevailing wisdom by stating the people who are obese in middle age run a lower risk of developing dementia later.

The research, published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, also revealed that on the other end of the scale, being underweight while being in the 40-55 age bracket is troublesome as that increases the risk of suffering from dementia later in life.

Researchers and skeptics are “surprised” from the results as obesity is said to have a potential protective effect against dementia and the team behind the study has cautioned against jumping to conclusions as the reasons for the observed association as yet to be found.

Researchers revealed in their study that compared with people of a healthy weight, underweight people (with BMI <20 kg/m2) had a 34 per cent higher risk of dementia. The researchers also revealed that the incidence of dementia continued to fall for every increasing BMI category, with very obese people (BMI >40 kg/m2) having a 29 per cent lower dementia risk than people of a healthy weight.

“Being underweight in middle age and old age carries an increased risk of dementia over two decades. Our results contradict the hypothesis that obesity in middle age could increase the risk of dementia in old age”, the researchers conclude.

However, the team behind the researcher warns people against jumping to conclusions about the benefits of obesity. Researchers stress that they haven’t been able to establish whether the net benefit of obesity on dementia would be positive or not.

Researchers say that even though there could be protective effects of obesity, people might not live long enough because of obesity to reap the benefits of being overweight.

The research that studied information of Brits recorded from 1992 to 2007 does sit starkly in contrast to the age old belief that reducing obesity in middle age could help prevent dementia. Researchers say that their study instigates a rethink of how high-risk individuals are identified.