08:53pm Wednesday 23 October 2019

Late-life body mass index decline linked to Alzheimer gene

This research finding is from the University of Gothenburg’s new Centre for Health and Ageing, AgeCap, and is based on data from the well-known Prospective Population Study of Women in Gothenburg in which researchers at the University of Gothenburg spent more than 40 years following a representative sample of the middle-aged female population.

This time, researchers from Gothenburg have focused on the presence of a particular genetic variant (APOEe4) which is linked to Alzheimer´s Disease.

Steeper reduction

The new study shows that those women who carry the gene experience a steeper reduction in BMI after the age of 70, compared with women who do not carry the gene.

“This discovery contributes towards previous studies showing that a change in body weight or BMI can be an early sign of the risk of developing Alzheimer’s,” says Deborah Gustafson and Kristoffer Bäckman, both researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy and authors on this paper. “Since weight and BMI curves are easy to measure, our findings could facilitate diagnosis and treatment.”

Different weight variations

Data from Gothenburg show that adult women normally gain BMI from middle age until around 70 years, before then losing BMI in their old age. These changes in BMI are thought to be due to factors such as ageing, changes in energy metabolism and/or changes in the brain.

In Swedish women who develop dementia, life’s BMI variations are a little different.

Flatter BMI curve

Women who develop dementia during their lives have a flatter BMI curve and their BMI increases less until the age of 70, after which point they decline in a similar way as women who are not affected by dementia.
However, the reasons behind this phenomenon remain unclear.

Better understanding

“It has been suggested that this has something to do with sensory changes linked to food intake, changes in the structure of the brain and other processes linked to ageing,” continues Deborah. “In addition, we know that brain changes related to AD begin decades before clinical disease onsent. We hope our discovery that weight loss is linked to the APOEe4 gene will help us to get a better understanding of these processes.”

The article 37 Years of Body Mass Index and Dementia: Effect Modification by the APOE Genotype: Observations from the Prospective Population Study of Women in Gothenburg, Sweden was published online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease on 16 September.

Link to the article

Deborah Gustafson, researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy, the University of Gothenburg

BY: Krister Svahn

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