New research suggests weight loss may be an early sign of dementia in the elderly. Researchers found weight loss begins before the onset of definite dementia symptoms and accelerates by the time of diagnosis.
Weight loss in the elderly is common and may be associated with various diseases including Alzheimer's. This has been documented in people who already have dementia. For the study researchers analyzed data on nearly 2,000 Japanese-American men. The study included 112 men with new-onset dementia and 1,778 without dementia. The men were examined six times over a period of up to 34 years. Weight was measured at each examination, and dementia was ascertained during the final three examinations.
Researchers found dementia was associated with significant previous weight loss and men who were found to have dementia had lost at least 11 pounds over the two to four years prior to reaching the clinical threshold of dementia. The association was similar in Alzheimer's disease and vascular disease say researchers.
Researchers conclude that poor nutrition and frailty frequently complicate later stages of dementia, causing falls, poor wound healing, and increased physical dependence thus they suggest that weight change and nutritional state in people with dementia should be taken seriously at least from the time of diagnosis, if not at earlier stages of more mild cognitive impairment .