Weight Watch: Packing a few extra pounds? It may mean you've got a better shot at maintaining your marbles
"Patients were an average 55 years old and 45,507 of them developed dementia over an average of nine years. The risk of dementia fell steadily as their weight rose, the researchers found."
A bit of the way into her report, Washington Post reporter Daniela Deane makes the point that "obesity levels, like dementia levels, are soaring worldwide." But according to the study that's the subject of Daniela's report, contrary to what you might assume, the two are not traveling on parallel tracks.
Because, as the prestigious scientific journal The Lancet is reporting: "A surprising study contradicting all previous research found that being fat in middle age appears to cut the risk of developing dementia rather than increase it."
Yes, you read that right.
A study of two million people found that the underweight were far more likely to develop dementia, a growing problem among the elderly in the Western world.And the study says it right there in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology Journal, where it has been published.
Underweight people had a 34 percent higher risk of developing dementia than those of a normal weight, the study found, while the very obese had a 29 percent lower risk of becoming forgetful and confused and showing other signs of senility.
These findings, Daniela notes, "fl[y] in the face of previous smaller studies -- and much modern health advice -- that what is good for the heart is also good for the head." But the new study, says its leader, Nawab Qizilbash of Oxon Epidemiology, "overshadows those [previous studies] by orders of magnitude. We show completely the opposite," he told the Times of London. "We did a lot of analysis to see if we could explain it, but it just seems to persist. We couldn't get rid of it, so we're left with this apparent protective effect."
The next step, the researchers say, assuming that "other studies confirm the findings," "would be to examine if people who eat more unknowingly take in dementia-fighting nutrients in the extra food they consume." Or at any rate to try to figure out what these unexpected numbers might mean in terms of body function.
DON'T GET CARRIED AWAY, THOUGH
There is, not surprisingly, a disclaimer attached to the findings, straight from the mouth of the man who oversaw the study, Nawal Qizilbash, who warned --
that being overweight or obese brings with it a much higher risk of death from any cause and a higher risk of stroke and other diseases.
“So even if there is a protective effect against dementia from being overweight or obese, you’re not living long enough to benefit from it,” Qizilbash was quoted as saying by the Times.