Overeating may double odds of memory loss in elderly

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(CBS) Can stuffing your mouth clog your brain? A new study suggests overeating may double the risk for memory loss, or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), among people age 70 and older.

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The study - to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 64th Annual Meeting in April - involved over 1,200 dementia-free people between ages 70 and 89. Of those, 163 people had MCI. Participants filled out a questionnaire about the amount of calories they consumed daily.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more pronounced decline of dementia, according to the Mayo Clinic. It increases a person's risk for developing later dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, but some people with MCI never get worse.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. split the participants into three groups based on their daily caloric consumption. One-third of the participants consumed between 600 and 1,526 calories per day; one-third consumed between 1,526 and 2,143; and one-third consumed between 2,143 and 6,000 calories daily.

The researchers found the odds of having MCI were more than double for those in the group that consumed the most calories than for those that consumed the least. There was no significant risk in the middle group.

"We observed a dose-response pattern which simply means; the higher the amount of calories consumed each day, the higher the risk of MCI," study author Dr. Yonas E. Geda, associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic, said in a written statement. "Cutting calories and eating foods that make up a healthy diet may be a simpler way to prevent memory loss as we age," he said.

Dr. Marie Janson, from Alzheimer's Research UK, told BBC News the findings fit in with "the bigger picture of a healthy lifestyle preventing Alzheimer's in later life."

WebMD has more on memory loss.

  • Monica DyBuncio

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