Controversial Study on Body Weight and Development of Dementia

DementiaAs the Baby Boomers age and develop more chronic diseases there is a predicted epidemic of cognitive dysfunction and dementia expected to occur. At the same time the Baby Boomer retirement explosion is occurring the nations of the world are experiencing a significant increase in obesity and its health related problems. In the April 10th issue of The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology researchers in Great Britain published a paper suggesting that being overweight might be more protective against the development of dementia than being at a normal weight or underweight. In fact they felt that underweight individuals having a Body Mass Index of < 20 had a far higher risk of developing dementia than normal weight individuals or obese individuals (BMI > 30). The data was collected and analyzed from the United Kingdom Clinical Practice Research Datalink by Nawab Qizilbash, MSc, DPhil, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The study looked at records of people aged 40 or older between 1992 and 2007.

The author concluded that “If increased weight in midlife is protective against dementia, the reasons for this inverse relationship are unclear at present.” Previous smaller studies on the issue suggested just the opposite that being overweight in midlife was a risk factor for developing dementia. Deborah Gustafson,, PhD, from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York cautioned that these results are certainly not the “final word” on the topic.

As a clinician we always advise patients to live a life and eat a diet based on moderation. The study did not make it clear if the protective effect of being overweight extended to the massively obese or not. What is clear is that being at an extreme seems deleterious, while being at normal body weight or mildly overweight may be protective.

Soda – Does it Cause Asthma and COPD?

With the USA dealing with a youth epidemic of obesity we have been educated as to the large amount of sugar and calories we get from drinking a can of  carbonated soda pop or pouring a glass of soda.   Vending machines for soda as well as fountain service have been removed from schools and school cafeterias in an effort to stop the youth intake of cheap inefficient calories.  Nobody criticizes the occasional use of soda pop in moderation but the continued use at 250-500 calories per 8 ounce serving will cause anyone to gain weight easily.

We now have another disease entity to think about. Australian researchers, in a pulmonary journal named  Respirology, have published the results of a “cross sectional study” that seems to link drinking at least a half liter of soda per day with the development of asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease.   By design, cross sectional studies will not show that drinking a half liter of soda a day is a cause of asthma or COPD, but it certainly can establish a relationship.

US researchers looking at the preliminary data seem to feel that individuals who consume that much soda a day probably have a poor overall diet and pay poor attention to their overall health putting themselves at risk for many types of diseases.  Additional research is needed on the subject but the message is clear, keep your soda intake to occasional use at moderate levels until more is known.

Dutch Diet Drink Reduces Hunger

Obesity is an epidemic negatively impacting our health in America and around the world.  According to the National Center for Health Statistics, over 68% of American adults are overweight or obese.  As we move away from a hard working agrarian society to a society which consumes fast food while getting less activity due, in part, to our technological advances, we are always looking for aids to keep our weight down.

In recent years the pharmacological approach has fallen on hard times due to the many significant side effects associated with diet medications.  Expensive surgery to reduce the stomach size and re-route the intestines has met with mixed success, high costs and adverse effects as well.

Last month, Harry Peters, a research manager of Unilever Research and Development in the Netherlands announced preliminary successful results of a prototype diet beverage. He and his staff concocted a chocolate flavored brew that stayed liquid and palatable when you drank it but firmed up into a thick gel when exposed to the acidic and digestive juices in the stomach.  The gel distended the stomach and produced a sense of satiety and fullness with a resultant decrease in appetite in the vast majority of the study participants. The research is quite preliminary but again presents hope to those of us fighting the battle of the bulge.

“Although the self-reported decreases in hunger are robustly reported in this study, further studies are needed to establish its implications for food intake, compliance to weight loss programs and long-term effects on weight loss or weight maintenance,” Peters and colleagues concluded.