Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Alzheimer's makes people 'forget to eat'

Those who are fat in middle age are actually more likely to develop Alzheimer's decades later, said scientists at Kansas University in the US.

By contrast, being an overweight pensioner appears to offer some protection from the disease.

The researchers think they are now beginning to understand this so-called "obesity paradox".

They say those who are overweight or obese in middle age are more likely to develop Alzheimer's because of a variety of medical factors - or due to "heterogeneous pathophysiology" as they put it.

Writing in the journal Neurology, they say that one explanation for the paradox is "a long preclinical phase" to the disease, which can include changes to the brain without outward signs, and "accelerated weight loss".

They write: "Alzheimer's disease related neurodegenerative brain changes may influence body composition."

Possible ways Alzheimer's could lead to weight loss are by making people forget to eat, and by reducing the amount of physical activity they take - which can result in a person becoming thinner if accompanied by a corresondingly lower calorie intake.

However, the Alzheimer's Society said more work was needed to tease out exactly what was going on.

Dr Anne Corbett, research manager for the charity, said: "As yet it is unclear whether a low body mass index (BMI) is actually part of Alzheimer’s, or a side effect caused by the disease.

"Although this study shows a link between it and changes in the brain common to Alzheimer’s, there was no association between BMI and symptoms of the disease such as memory loss.

"More work is needed before we can say if these findings could be used to develop better ways of diagnosing the early stages of the condition.

"What we do know is that living well will reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer's Society recommends people eat healthily and exercise regularly."

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