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By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
Now there is another reason to control your weight: The journal Neurology has published Swedish research that has found that long-term obesity in older people raises the risk of developing dementia by 300 percent. Prof. Andrei Keidar, who is responsible for bariatric (stomach shortening) surgery at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva, says the new findings are very important, and show that being overweight even in the elderly should be treated.
Eight thousand five hundred pairs of identical twins over 65 participated in the study; 350 were diagnosed as having vascular dementia (from blood vessel constriction), while 114 were suspected of having regular dementia. The researchers concluded that there is a significant connection between dementia and obesity.
Keidar explained that it has been known that metabolic diseases of the overweight, such as type 2 diabetes, involve excess sugar – the primary “fuel” of brain tissue. It may be that the disruption of normal metabolism contributes to the increase in the prevalence of dementia beyond the damage caused to the blood vessels, he suggested. Thus he concludes that preventing obesity and treating it at a younger age could reduce the amount of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Alzheimer’s affects some 100,000 Israelis – more than 6% of people aged 65, and up to half of those over 85.
Health Ministry statistics show that 44.6% of Israeli adult men and 31.7% of women are overweight.
In the US and Europe, some 50% of older people are overweight or obese.
Keidar suggested that the amount of time for which people were heavy could affect their risk of dementia.
Exercise, diets, medical treatment and – as a last resort – bariatric surgery can help people avoid a series of diseases that can harm the quality and length of their lives, said Keidar. Some 5,000 bariatric operations were conducted (it is included in the basket of health services for those qualified) last year, compared to only 1,500 in 2006. After extensive study, two international medical societies recently stated that the efficacy of bariatric surgery in improving the health of the obese has been proven.