Mayo Clinic study finds weight loss precedes dementia diagnosis in women

July 16, 2006

Rochester, Minn. -- Mayo Clinic researchers have found that women who develop dementia experience a decline in weight as many as 10 years prior to the onset of memory loss, compared to peers who do not develop dementia.

Findings will be presented July 16 at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders in Madrid, Spain.

"We discovered that the weight of those women who developed dementia was drifting downward many years before the onset of symptoms," says David Knopman, M.D., Mayo Clinic neurologist and lead study researcher. "This illustrates changes that occur before the memory loss and mental decline in dementia. We believe that the brain disease began to interfere somehow with maintenance of body weight, long before it affected memory and thinking."

Dr. Knopman and colleagues conducted this retrospective study, analyzing the medical records of people seen by a medical provider in Olmsted County, home of Mayo Clinic, who were diagnosed with the onset of dementia between 1990 and 1994. They identified 560 patients and, for comparison, also identified a group of those similar in age and gender who did not develop dementia. For each patient, weight was identified for the year of dementia diagnosis and then for the 20 to 30 years preceding. The weights of those patients who didn't develop dementia were tracked over the same period.

"In those women who did not go on to develop dementia, 30 years before the year of their peers' onset of dementia, their average weight was 140 pounds," says Dr. Knopman. "At the year of their peers' dementia onset, they weighed 142 pounds. The women who later developed dementia started off at the same weight as those who didn't develop dementia, but then their weight drifted downward to 136 pounds 10 years before symptom onset and 128 pounds at symptom onset."

The cause of the weight loss in those women who later developed dementia is unclear, according to Dr. Knopman, but the investigators have some theories.

"The weight loss findings raise scientific questions about the cause or causes of the weight loss," says Dr. Knopman. "This points to changes in the brain that develop years before the actual memory loss. We think that there are several possible explanations. The women might have less initiative and lose interest in eating, they might develop a duller sense of taste and smell, or they might experience an earlier sense of satiety (feeling full). Also, because we didn't observe the anticipatory weight loss in men, the weight loss could have something specific to do with postmenopausal hormonal changes."

Dr. Knopman explains that he does not consider the weight loss finding to be useful for diagnosis of dementia, and he does not envision that physicians who discover weight loss in their female patients later in life would immediately send the patient for memory testing. He hopes, however, that dementia researchers can pinpoint the brain mechanisms influencing the weight loss in women who develop dementia in order to better understand how it develops.

Dementia is a neurological disorder affecting a person's ability to think, speak, reason, remember and move. The most common forms of dementia are Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia.
-end-
To obtain the latest news releases from Mayo Clinic, go to www.mayoclinic.org/news. MayoClinic.com (www.mayoclinic.com) is available as a resource for your health stories.

Mayo Clinic

Related Dementia Articles from Brightsurf:

The danger of Z-drugs for dementia patients
Strong sleeping pills known as 'Z-drugs' are linked with an increased risk of falls, fractures and stroke among people with dementia, according to new research.

The long road to dementia
Alzheimer's disease develops over decades. It begins with a fatal chain reaction in which masses of misfolded beta-amyloid proteins are produced that in the end literally flood the brain.

Why people with dementia go missing
People with dementia are more likely to go missing in areas where road networks are dense, complicated and disordered - according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

PTSD may double risk of dementia
People who have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are up to twice as likely to develop dementia later in life, according to a new study by UCL researchers, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Dementia education
School-based dementia education could deliver much needed empathy and understanding for older generations as new research from the University of South Australia shows it can significantly improve dementia knowledge and awareness among younger generations.

Building dementia friendly churches
A project to help church communities become more 'dementia friendly' has had a significant impact across the country.

A "feeling" for dementia?
A research team led by the DZNE concludes that personal perception can be an important indicator for the early detection of Alzheimer's disease.

New biomarker for dementia diagnosis
Medical researchers in the UK and Australia have identified a new marker which could support the search for novel preventative and therapeutic treatments for dementia.

Digital solutions for dementia care
Telehealth delivery of dementia care in the home can be as effective as face-to-face home visit services if carers and recipients take advantage of the technologies available, Australian researchers say.

Despite a marked reduction in the prevalence of dementia, the number of people with dementia is set to double by 2050 according to new Alzheimer Europe report
Today, at a European Parliament lunch debate, Alzheimer Europe launched a new report presenting the findings of its collaborative analysis of recent prevalence studies and setting out updated prevalence rates for dementia in Europe.

Read More: Dementia News and Dementia Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.