Introduction: Higher midlife body mass index (BMI) is suggested to increase the risk of dementia, but weight loss during the preclinical dementia phase may mask such effects.
Methods: We examined this hypothesis in 1,349,857 dementia-free participants from 39 cohort studies. BMI was assessed at baseline. Dementia was ascertained at follow-up using linkage to electronic health records (N = 6894). We assumed BMI is little affected by preclinical dementia when assessed decades before dementia onset and much affected when assessed nearer diagnosis.
Results: Hazard ratios per 5-kg/m2 increase in BMI for dementia were 0.71 (95% confidence interval = 0.66-0.77), 0.94 (0.89-0.99), and 1.16 (1.05-1.27) when BMI was assessed 10 years, 10-20 years, and >20 years before dementia diagnosis.
Conclusions: The association between BMI and dementia is likely to be attributable to two different processes: a harmful effect of higher BMI, which is observable in long follow-up, and a reverse-causation effect that makes a higher BMI to appear protective when the follow-up is short.
Keywords: Bias; Body mass index; Cohort study; Dementia; Obesity.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.