Rising obesity levels could trigger tide of dementia, scientists warn

Researchers warn that growing levels of obesity could drive dementia costs to £41bn a year by 2050.

Posted on 13th May 2013

Researchers at the UK Health Forum in London have warned that rising levels of obesity in the UK could contribute to a huge dementia burden over the coming decades, costing the economy around £41bn a year by 2050. The research is presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO), taking place in Liverpool on 12-15 May.

Obesity levels are expected to rise over the new few decades, reaching 31% in women and 46% in men by the year 2050. Research has shown obesity to be a risk factor for dementia and the researchers used computer modelling to estimate the effect of rising obesity levels on dementia.

The researchers say that rising obesity levels could contribute significantly to the growing incidence of dementia. They predict that if body mass index levels remain constant rather than increasing, there would be a 10% reduction in new dementia cases in 2050. Research commissioned by Alzheimer’s Research UK in 2010 reported the cost of dementia to the UK economy as £23bn a year. The researchers warn that if obesity levels continue to rise at the current rates, this will increase to £41bn a year by 2050.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Research shows that obesity in midlife is a risk factor for dementia and these projections suggest that rising obesity in the UK could contribute to growing levels of dementia over the coming decades. Dementia already has an enormous impact on individuals, families and communities and it is concerning to see that this could become even greater than previously predicted.

“We know that age is the biggest risk factor for dementia, and while we can’t change our age, research suggests that lifestyle choices during midlife could help to keep our brains healthy as we age. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, regular exercise and not smoking could all help to reduce the risk of dementia and are things that people can think about doing at any age.”

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