Protein in urine linked to higher risk of dementia

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By Philip Tubby | Wednesday 14 December 2016

A research study has revealed that protein found in the urine of people with kidney problems may indicate a higher risk of decline in memory and thinking skills or dementia. The research is published on 14 December in the journal Neurology.

Researchers at Maastricht University led a meta-analysis of 11 studies where tests of kidney function and memory and thinking skills were carried out for both men and women over the age of 45. Kidney disease and dementia have previously been shown to share common risk factors including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The researchers wanted to discover whether particular proteins found in urine – which can be a sign of kidney problems – were linked to the development of dementia.

The review looked at multiple proteins, but researchers found that people with a specific protein called albumin in their urine had a 35% increased risk of experiencing a decline in memory and thinking skills or developing dementia, compared to people who do not have the protein in their urine. However, not all of the proteins studied in the review showed a correlation between their levels in urine and the development of problems with memory and thinking skills.

Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“The review of current evidence highlights a possible increased risk of dementia for people with albumin in their urine, but it doesn’t conclusively show whether kidney problems could lead to either memory and thinking problems or dementia. Although we know there are shared risk factors for both conditions, research has so far been unable to show a causal link between the health of a person’s kidneys and their brain function. It will be important to follow up these findings to determine whether there is a link between kidney damage and cognitive health, and to identify what mechanisms may underlie such a link.”

“There is currently no way to prevent dementia and it is caused by a combination of age, genetic and lifestyle factors, many of which are still being understood. The best evidence suggests that the risk of dementia can be reduced by eating a healthy diet, not smoking, regularly exercising, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels.”

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Philip Tubby