Impacts of Overweight and Obesity in Older Age on the Risk of Dementia: A Systematic Literature Review and a Meta-Analysis

J Alzheimers Dis. 2019;70(s1):S87-S99. doi: 10.3233/JAD-180763.


Background: It is unclear whether overweight and obesity in older age reduces or increases the risk of incident dementia.

Objective: To assess the impacts of overweight and obesity in older age on incident dementia.

Methods: We searched cohort studies reporting body weight measured in older age and dementia through PubMed, Embase, Medline, PyschInfo, and Cochrane library until July 2016. Sixteen articles were identified for the review. We pooled data from them and a new unpublished study from China, to calculate relative risk (RR) of incident dementia in relation to body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC).

Results: All 16 cohort studies were undertaken in high income countries, with follow-up periods ranging between 3 to 18 years. Thirteen studies showed an inverse association between BMI and dementia, and three studies demonstrated a positive association. Pooled RR of dementia in relation to continuous BMI from 14 studied populations, including the new Chinese data, was 0.97 (95% CI 0.95-1.00); in those followed up <9 years it was 0.95 (0.93-0.96) while in ≥9 years follow-up it was 1.03 (0.96-1.11). In five studied populations examining categorical BMI, RR of dementia in older people classified as overweight and obese was 0.98 (0.54-1.77) and 1.17 (0.65-2.10) respectively, in comparison with other weights. The pooled WC data showed no association between increased WC and reduced risk of dementia.

Conclusion: The current evidence did not support a paradox on beneficial impacts of overweight and obesity in older age on incident dementia. More studies with long term follow up are needed to clarify the association of body weight in older age with dementia risk.

Keywords: Body weight; dementia; meta-analysis; older people.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Risk
  • Waist Circumference