I saw a headline recently that said being obese reduces your risk of getting dementia by about 30 percent. That was pretty startling. When is the last time you heard that being obese actually decreases your risk of developing a debilitating disease?
Obviously becoming obese for the purpose of staving off dementia is a questionable strategy at best, but in reading the rest of the story another fact jumped out at me: People who were underweight had a 30 percent higher risk of developing dementia. That concerns me because here at Daystar Retirement Village we are sensitive to the fact that seniors can sometimes struggle to keep their weight up.
Past studies have suggested that obesity in middle age might increase one’s risk of developing dementia, but according to a recent article at Psyblog.com, this study suggests that people who are underweight are at greater risk.
Lead researcher Stuart Pocock, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said it’s important to look at why underweight people are at increased risk, and also why overweight people are at decreased risk.
“[O]ur results also open up an intriguing new avenue in the search for protective factors for dementia,” he said. “If we can understand why people with a high BMI have a reduced risk of dementia, it’s possible that further down the line, researchers might be able to use these insights to develop new treatments for dementia.”
For the study, researchers collected data from about 2 million people and looked at Body Mass Index (BMI) and incidence of dementia over a 10-year period.
The results showed that very obese people (those with a BMI over 40) were 29% less likely to develop dementia than those of a normal, healthy weight. When the BMI was less than 25, the dementia risk increased by about 30 percent as well.
At this point researchers say they don’t have any theories for why higher BMI correlates to lower risk of dementia, but they are continuing to study the issue and are looking at diet, exercise, frailty, genetic factors and weight change.
One of the takeaways I got from the article is that increased risk of dementia is another reason why we need to make sure seniors are eating a healthy, nutrient-dense diet. Poor nutrition is a common problem for seniors who live alone and no longer have other people in the house to cook for—or to cook for them. Seniors can easily get into a rut of eating the same things day after day, often from a can or from the freezer. It’s hard to buy a head of cauliflower if you know it’ll take you a week to finish it.
That’s one of the benefits of Daystar Retirement Campus. We work hard to make sure our residents have fresh, healthful food to eat—and plenty of choices—at every meal. The list of reasons why eating well makes sense for all of us is already a long one, but this study adds one more.
Join us at Daystar and see how delicious eating well can be.