There has already been research that links obesity to a bigger risk for dementia as one ages. And data recently presented at the European Congress on Obesity projected that dementia will skyrocket in Great Britain if obesity rates stay the same, according to BBC Health News.
Don’t expect things to be much better in the United States, where obesity is a growing health issue.
Scientists at the UK Health Forum projected obesity trends to 2050, using computer modeling to simulate a ‘virtual population’ and estimate the prevalence and cost burden of obesity-related dementia, according to a press release from the group.
The researchers explored three scenarios. First, they looked at the effect on dementia if the current trend of an increased prevalence of obesity continues. Second, they looked at the effect of a smaller rise in obesity (a modeled 5 percent reduction).
Third, they looked at the effect if obesity levels remained constant at present levels, allowing them to distinguish between the effect of an aging population and the rising incidence of obesity.
Researchers found that, based on past and current data, obesity will continue to increase in England, reaching 46 percent in males and 31 percent in females by 2050, according to the press release. The 2011 Health Survey for England shows male obesity to be 24 percent now and female at 26 percent.
“This increase in obesity could have an impact upon the future incidence of dementia,” the press release said. “In particular it is mid-life obesity that confers an almost doubling of the risk of later-life dementia.”
By 2050, it’s predicted that almost 7 percent of the population over 65 years will suffer from dementia. Holding BMI (Body Mass Index) rates constant at today’s levels would result in a reduction of almost 10 percent of new cases of dementia in 2050 compared with if current trends continued unabated to 2050.
“However, the researchers caution that, since dementia typically takes two to three decades to evolve the impact of any BMI intervention upon dementia will take 25 years to show effect,” the press release said. “Reducing BMI will have an impact on other diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes sooner than the impact on dementia.”
I can’t change British pounds to dollars, but you will get an idea of the financial toll dementia will take in Britain by just looking at the numbers.
The annual total cost of dementia (health, social, informal care and lost productivity) is currently estimated at 23 billion pounds a year by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust. Researchers project that based on current trends, that figure will increase to 41 billion pounds a year by 2050.
“With obesity rates projected to double by 2050, dementia-related costs are expected to increase,” the press release said. “A modeled 5 percent reduction in BMI across the population would avoid an estimated 600 million pounds in dementia-related costs in England. If the rise in obesity rates was halted and BMI levels were held at 2010 levels over the same period, an estimated 940 million pounds in costs could be avoided.
“These are preliminary findings and we need to develop the modeling methods further to get a fuller picture,” researchers said. “This study adds to the existing body of evidence which shows the importance of policies and interventions to prevent obesity and its related diseases in the population, including dementia.”