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Monday, 17 July 2006 10:09
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Weight loss clue to dementia
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in America claim that weight loss in women may be an early sign of impending dementia.

In a study of over 1,000 people, women who later developed dementia had a drop in weight for as long as ten years before being diagnosed with Alzheimer's or other degenerative brain conditions.

Dr David Knopman, who led the study, said: "We discovered the weight of those women who developed dementia was drifting downward many years before the onset of symptoms.

"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”.

The UK authors of the study, Dr Robert Stewart and colleagues from the Institute of Psychiatry, London, said: "An important consideration arising from research in this area is the extent to which weight loss may be prevented or minimised in dementia.

"Poor nutrition and frailty frequently complicate later stages of dementia, causing falls, poor wound healing, and increased physical dependence”.

Past studies have suggested that dietary interventions may prevent weight loss in patients Alzheimer's disease and may delay cognitive decline and mortality.

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said: "These findings need to be taking further urgently as they may reveal how dementia develops and therefore provide routes to the new treatments we so desperately need."

She added: "The difference in men and women suggested by this latest research suggests it could be linked to post-menopausal hormone changes.

"This is interesting as low oestrogen levels in women have been shown to increase the risk of dementia”.

Dr Susanne Sorensen, of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "The observed weight loss is interesting as it could indicate the part of the brain responsible for weight loss is also one of the first to be damaged by the disease.

"Further research is now needed to identify what causes this weight loss”.


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