50+ health

Overeating linked to memory loss

Overeating linked to memory loss High calorie diet doubles risk of mild cognitive impairment

Overeating may double the risk of memory loss in elderly people, according to new research.

US scientists found that older men and women who consumed more than 2,100 calories a day were twice as likely to develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI) compared with those who consumed less.

People with MCI experience mild memory problems, but not to an extent that interferes with their daily life, but around half go on to develop Alzheimer's.

The findings suggest that consuming fewer calories and sticking to a healthy diet may help to stave off the onset of Alzheimer's, researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, said.

For the study, the research team looked at the diets of 1,233 people aged between 70 and 89. None had dementia, but 163 had been diagnosed with MCI.

They then divided the study participants into three equal groups according to how many calories they consumed in a day. One third of the participants consumed between 600 and 1,526 calories per day, another third between 1,526 and 2,143 per day and the final third consumed between 2,143 and 6,000 calories per day.

This relationship was present even after the scientists accounted for a number of other variables which can affect memory including age, sex, diabetes, stroke history and coronary artery disease.

Those in the highest calorie consuming group had more than double the risk of MCI compared with those in the lowest calorie-consuming group.

However, there was no significant difference in the risk of MCI for those in the low and middle calorie groups.

This remained true after taking into account other factors which can affect memory including age, sex, diabetes, stroke history and coronary artery disease.

The study findings were presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

"We observed a dose-response pattern which simply means; the higher the amount of calories consumed each day, the higher the risk of MCI," said study author Dr Yonas Geda.

"Cutting calories and eating foods that make up a healthy diet may be a simpler way to prevent memory loss as we age."

The study findings have not been published but are to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual conference in April.

Dr Marie Janson of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: "Although these findings are yet to be published, they touch on an interesting subject.

"The initial report suggests older people who consume a high number of calories may be at greater risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.

"It would be interesting to see how many of these people go on to develop dementia in the future, to see if there is link to Alzheimer’s disease.

"We know that age is one of the greatest risk factors for dementia, but adopting a healthy lifestyle including a balanced diet and regular exercise, is beneficial in protecting against dementia along with a number of other chronic diseases.

"With 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia, and this number expected to rise dramatically with the ageing population, there is a desperate need to understand more about the risk factors involved. To make real progress, we must invest in research."

This article was published on Tue 14 February 2012

Image © mark huls - Fotolia.com

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