Get fat and ward off dementia

Contrary to popular belief and previous medical research, a new UWA study claims that overweight men are less likely to develop dementia than their slimmer peers.

It’s easy to understand why people get confused about what they should be doing to prevent the onset of dementia, given the hoards of advice we regularly receive on the subject.

Researchers and doctors direct older people to maintain a healthy diet, get lots of exercise and do all that they can to stay out of the dreaded obese weight zone.

But now, a new study from the University of Western Australia (UWA) has now shown that overweight older men are less likely to develop dementia.

The study’s results, which come from a decade-long epidemiological study published in this month’s PLoS ONE Journal, indicate that men with a body mass index (BMI) in the overweight category and with high measurements of fat deposits around the waist were less likely to develop dementia compared to their normal weighted peers.

Chair of Old Age Psychiatry at the university, Professor Osvaldo Almeida, said that this study raises the question about whether adult obesity guidelines should be applied to the elderly.

“It is well established that obesity is a contributing factor for many lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, which in turn increases the risk of death in middle age,” said Professor Osvaldo Almeida. “However, the same may not true for older men.

“Recent research has shown that being classified as overweight in old age reduces your chance of dying from cancer, heart attack, stroke and other diseases that are associated with old age. Our findings add further weight to the argument for the need to review the BMI for the elderly.

“These findings have relevance to the ongoing debate about developing suitable BMI guidelines for later life: older men who have a slight increase in adiposity markers are not at greater risk of dementia, and current guidelines for ‘healthy’ adiposity values for BMI, waist circumference and waist/hip ratio might require recalibration in older age.”

The study surveyed 12,047 community-dwelling men aged between 65 and 84 years over a 10-year period.

Professor Almeida, who is also the research director of the Western Australian Centre for Health and Ageing, said the prevalence of obesity in older Australians had tripled between 1985 and 2004, affecting 22 per cent of men aged 65-74 and 14 per cent of those older than 75 years.

“The strength of our study is that, to our knowledge, it is the largest, longest epidemiological survey of old men and dementia.

“Many other studies have looked at far fewer men. We cannot comment on whether the findings would apply to older women, without doing further research with women.”

The BMI, which is a statistical measurement which utilises a person’s height and weight, has long been used as a formula by the World Health Organization to enable health professionals to discuss weight problems objectively with their patients.

Click here to view the article on the research.

Tags: aged-care, bmi-, dementia, obesity, plos-one-journal, professor-osvaldo-almeida, university-of-western-australia, western-australia-centre-for-health-and-ageing, who,

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