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New study suggests being overweight mid-life could lead people to develop dementia earlier than those who are a healthy weight.

With one in four people in the UK classed as obese, it’s worrying to see new research by the National Institute on Aging in the US, which suggests that being even one point over a healthy body mass index (BMI) range could speed up the development of dementia in people aged 50 or over.

It’s not the first time that researchers have found a link between being overweight and increased risk of dementia, but this study has been able to quantify exactly how it affects it.

The researchers studied 1,300 people over 50 for around 14 years, testing them every two years for cognitive ability and weight: 142 people developed dementia. Those who were overweight or obese developed Alzheimer’s far more quickly, seven months sooner for each point of BMI over a normal weight.

‘We think these findings are important because they add to a substantial amount of knowledge about how obesity affects Alzheimer’s disease, said Dr Madhav Thambisetty, lead author on the study.

‘But more importantly, it indicates that if we can maintain a healthy BMI even as early as midlife, it might have long-lasting protective effects towards delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease decades later.’

‘We know dementia can begin to develop years before symptoms begin and so keeping healthy through midlife and into later life is important for reducing dementia risk,’ says Dr Laura Phipps of Alzheimer’s Research UK.

‘While there is no single way to completely prevent dementia, promoting better brain health throughout life could have a large impact.’

For more tips on how health can impact your dementia risk, click here.