loss in old age that precedes noticeable memory loss could be an early
sign of Alzheimer's disease, according to a new report. (File
BEIJING, Sep. 28 (Xinhuanet) -- Older people with unexplained weight
loss may be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease, a recent study shows.
A study of more than 800 healthy
nuns, priests and monks who were slightly overweight on average showed that
those who lost about one unit of body mass index (BMI) a year -- a little more
than five pounds (2 kg) or so -- had a 35 percent greater risk of developing
Alzheimer's than those with no weight change.
Writing in the Sept. 27 issue of journal
Neurology, Dr. Aron Buchman and colleagues at Rush University Medical Center in
Chicago said they used information from an ongoing study of Catholic volunteers
who undergo extensive health exams and who keep careful diaries.
"The most likely explanation is that
there is something about these individuals or about this disease that affects
body mass index before the clinical syndrome becomes apparent -- that loss of
BMI reflects the disease process itself," study co-author Dr. David A. Bennett
said in a prepared statement.
At the start of the study, none of
the volunteers had dementia and their average BMI was 27 (for reference,
overweight begins at a BMI of 25 or above, while obesity starts at 30).
During the follow-up period, 151 of
the volunteers (18.4 percent) developed Alzheimer's disease.
"These findings suggest that subtle,
unexplained body mass and weight loss in an older person may be an early sign of
AD and can precede the development of obvious memory problems," said Dr. David
early will become more important, said Sam Gandy, a spokesman for the
Alzheimer's Association. He believes that experimental drugs might soon be available to slow
down the disease.
Such drugs do not yet exist,
but Gandy said at-risk seniors should take charge of their affairs now before any
sign of possible dementia takes hold. Enditem