According to a new study from Columbia University researchers, people who suffer from the most common movement disorder, essential tremor (ET), are more prone to have a lower body mass index than their healthy counterparts.
Essential tremor is a disorder of unknown origins, but doctors believe it may be neurodegenerative in nature. The condition causes increasingly severe tremors over time that can interfere with a person's daily activities, such as eating. It is generally worse in older individuals. Some people become so disabled by the disease they can no longer feed themselves independently.
Since other neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's, are associated with weight loss, these researchers decided to measure the BMI and caloric intake of patients with essential tremor and then compare them to those of people of similar ages without the condition. The study involved 70 ET patients and 200 healthy patients.
Although average caloric intake was similar for the two groups, the average BMI for the ET patients was 5 percent lower than in the healthy group. Average BMIs were 26.4 and 28.3, respectively and men were more affected than women. Researchers also found ET patients with lower BMIs suffered from more severe symptoms and longer tremor duration.
Researchers believe the lower BMIs seen in the ET patients could be the result of the greater amount of energy they expend during tremors. Since progressive weight loss, particularly in the elderly, is associated with an increased risk for hip fractures and death, they suggest physicians focus more attention on weight loss in ET patients.