Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

Font Size

Elderly Weight Loss May Signal Dementia

Dementia Diagnosis May Follow Late-Life Weight Loss by a Few Years
WebMD Health News

Jan. 10, 2005 -- Losing weight late in life may indicate that the brain is inching toward dementia. A long-term study shows that elderly men with dementia lost nearly 10% of their body weight a few years before their dementia diagnosis.

Shedding pounds is common among the elderly. It's often the result of disease, and the consequences can be serious. If nutrition and energy suffer, health can decline.

Dementia may come on the heels of late-life weight loss, say Robert Stewart, MD, and colleagues. Stewart works with London's Institute of Psychiatry. Their report appears in the January issue of Archives of Neurology.

Stewart's team studied more than 1,800 Japanese-American men, following them for 32 years. Participants were examined six times from 1965-1999. They weighed in at each visit and were also screened for dementia at their last three appointments.

The men were pretty lean to begin with. In middle age, their average body mass index (BMI) was 24. That's a normal BMI, which indicates normal amounts of body fat.

Nothing remarkable happened during the study's first 26 years. During that time, the men were moving from middle age to senior status. No weight-related differences stood out then between the men who were later diagnosed with dementia and those who weren't.

Time changed that. When the men were elderly (aged 77-88), the link between weight loss and dementia emerged.

Dementia was eventually diagnosed in 112 men. Over the last six years of the study, they had lost a little less than one extra pound per year than those without dementia.

That might not sound like much. But over time, it added up to a loss of at least 11 pounds for the men with dementia. That's about 10% of their body weight, say the researchers, noting that the men never had much weight to spare.

In many cases, the weight loss preceded the dementia diagnosis by two to four years. That could mean that weight loss is an early warning sign of future dementia.

Once dementia sets in, it can make matters worse. Patients may forget to eat, making them suffer nutritionally. As a result, they can have a harder time healing from wounds or falls, becoming more physically dependent.

Today on WebMD

Remember your finger
When it’s more than just forgetfulness.
senior man with serious expression
Which kinds are treatable?
senior man
Common symptoms to look for.
mri scan of human brain
Can drinking red wine reverse the disease?
eating blueberries
Colored mri of brain
Close up of elderly couple holding hands
mature woman
Woman comforting ailing mother
Senior woman with serious expression