New Alzheimer's research links weight to earlier symptoms

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Some eye-opening new research was revealed this week about Alzheimer's and weight.

A new report says how much someone weighs when they are 50, could play a role in not just whether that person gets the disease later on, but also how quickly it will strike.

The findings published in the Journal of Molecular Psychiatry say if someone is overweight at 50, Alzheimer's could hit that person faster and more severely.

Researchers at institutions including the National Institute on Aging looked at the health of patients when they were 50.

The heavier they were, the earlier Alzheimer's symptoms showed up.  On average, by six and a half months.

"They actually had more Alzheimer's Disease in the brain then people who were at normal weight," said Dr. Owen Carmichael of Pennington Biomedical Reseach Center.

Pennington did not contribute to the study, but Dr. Carmichael is also an Alzheimer's researcher.

The disease runs in his family. His father and grandfather both had it.

"I would stress to people that you do everything thing you can to lower your risk of Alzheimer's disease, but there are certain things like genetics that are in fact, outside of your control," said Dr. Carmichael.

Researchers used the body mass index, or BMI equation, to base their findings.

BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

A healthy body mass index is said to be between 20 and 25, with exceptions for muscle mass.

Researchers say more than five million Americans live with Alzheimer's, and that number will double by 2050, pending no cure is found.

Dr. Carmichael hopes the new report leads to more awareness, and in turn, fewer cases.

"If we introduce positive health changes earlier in the lifespan, especially in people who are middle-aged, will that actually lower the number of Alzheimer's Disease cases later on," asked Dr. Carmichael.  "Maybe 20, or 30 or 40 years in the future, it might actually reduce the number of cases that people have."

While the new report indicates a connection between being overweight and earlier signs of Alzheimer's, researchers say more studies are needed.

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