HealthDay News — Elderly adults with Alzheimer’s disease who were overweight at age 50 tended to develop dementia earlier, according to research published in Molecular Psychiatry.

The study findings come from a long-term review of 1,394 older adults who were free of dementia at the outset. Just over 10% were eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

On average, the study participants were 83 years old when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. But that age of onset varied according to people’s weight at age 50: For each unit increase in body mass index (BMI), Alzheimer’s set in about seven months earlier, on average. After accounting for hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes mellitus, and smoking status, the team found that a higher BMI at age 50 was still connected to earlier Alzheimer’s onset. Brain autopsies showed that Alzheimer’s patients who’d been heavier in middle age generally had greater neuropathology.

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Other studies have found that obesity may boost the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. But this research suggests it also speeds the onset, senior researcher Madhav Thambisetty, MD, PhD, of the U.S. National Institute on Aging, told HealthDay. It’s not clear, however, whether those brain abnormalities are the reason for the earlier Alzheimer’s, Thambisetty said. Plus, he noted, there were some factors that his team could not account for —such as the quality of people’s diets.


  1. Chuang Y-F et al. Mol Psychiatry. 2015; doi:10.1038/mp.2015.129.