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Examining if being overweight really confers protection against dementia: Sixty-four year follow-up of participants in the Glasgow University alumni cohort study

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    Rights statement: © The Author(s). 2016 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of negative results in biomedicine
Early online date2 Nov 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Nov 2016


Background: Recent large-scale studies suggest that obesity and overweight may confer protection against future dementia. This observation could, however, be generated by reverse causality. That is, weight loss in the incipient phase of dementia ascribed to diminished self-care, including sub-optimal nutrition, would have the effect of generating such an inverse association. One approach to circumventing this problem would be to measure weight in a population which is young enough to be free of the symptoms of dementia which is then followed up for dementia occurrence over many decades.
Methods: In a prospective cohort study, body mass index, and other potential risk factors, were measured in 9547 male university undergraduates (mean age 20.5 years) in 1948-68 who were then linked to national mortality registers.
Results: Of 2537 deaths over a mean of 50.6 years follow up, 140 were ascribed to dementia. There was no association between overweight and future dementia deaths at conventional levels of statistical significance (age-adjusted hazard ratio; 95% confidence interval: 0.93; 0.49, 1.79).
Conclusion: In this cohort study of former university students, being overweight in youth did not confer protection against later dementia death.

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