Anorak News | Being fat causes dementia say experts – maybe

Being fat causes dementia say experts – maybe

by | 21st, August 2012

“LOSE WEIGHT TO BEAT DEMENTIA.” davises the Daily Express’s front page.

A 10-year study into the lifestyles of thousands of middle-aged workers has shown the fatter people are, the faster they lose their mental ability…

The study was on civil servants in Whitehall.

Last night obesity expert Dr Ian Campbell said the research “shows clearly” that being overweight brings an increased risk of dementia. “And that’s particularly concerning because it is clearly avoidable,” he said…

“This research shows clearly that if you are overweight you are at increased risk of dementia. And that is particularly concerning because it is clearly avoidable.
The same healthy, active lifestyle that reduces your risk of heart disease will also reduce your risk of dementia.”

Giles Sheldrick then sees fit to add this:

The study, which used British civil servants working in Whitehall, shatters the myth that people can be so-called “metabolically healthy obese” and suffer no side effects such as cognitive problems.

Does it? No. It;s just an excuse to have a pop at the fat.

Such are the facts. Although what the Express does not tell you is what those full facts. The Independent reports:

Professor Archana Singh-Manoux, the research director at the French medical institute INSERM, who co-wrote the report, said our understanding of dementia was changing, but that more research was needed before the specific causal factors could be identified.

“The whole idea that dementia happens later in life is changing,” she said. “Our research is based on looking at early cognitive decline. We’ve been looking at whether there is cognitive decline earlier than the onset of dementia and what the risk factors could be. The study is ongoing and hopefully we will continue to be funded to see who develops dementia and who does not.”

So. No casual factors could be identified. But they might be if the researchers can get more money.

The full report, published in the BMJ, has caveats:

There are potential caveats to the results reported here. Longitudinal data are known to underestimate the effect of age because of practice effects and are subject to selective sample retention. In our study non-response was higher in the older individuals, affecting both cross sectional as well and longitudinal estimates. As non-response was not substantial (the overall response rate was 80% (7390/9250) in those invited to cognitive testing)… It must also be noted that Whitehall II is not representative of the general population. The participants are mostly white collar workers in relatively stable employment and two thirds are men, implying that our results could underestimate cognitive decline at the population level.

Still, the news is headline making. One other fact about INSERM:

Following the expert group’s report, on 1 February 2008 the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, decided to launch a five-year national plan on Alzheimer’s and related diseases.


This scientific policy is implemented by a network of excellence coordinated by a National Research Foundation on Alzheimer’s and related diseases and earmarked a budget of €200 million. Set up in June 2008 by the French Minister of Research for implementing the research measures of the national plan, this private not-for-profit foundation conducts an effective and highly resourceful research program on Alzheimer’s and related diseases…

With just one year left on the plan before those research grants come up for renewal, expect more big news to follow soon.

Posted: 21st, August 2012 | In: Reviews Comment (1) | TrackBack | Permalink