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Could Weight Loss Be Early Sign of Alzheimer's?
Date:11/22/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 21 (HealthDay News) -- People with early evidence of Alzheimer's disease are more likely to be underweight than people who don't have this type of dementia, a new study suggests.

"Weight loss may be a manifestation of the disease process progressing," said Eric Vidoni, lead author of a study appearing in the Nov. 22 issue of Neurology. "This may be further evidence for body-wide or systemic changes associated with Alzheimer's disease ... and it certainly supports the idea that Alzheimer's disease-related changes could be silently occurring, i.e., a 'preclinical' phase."

The findings may hold implications for diagnosis, prevention or treatment, but these are likely to be years or even decades away.

"A long history of declining weight or BMI (body mass index, a ratio of weight to height) could aid the diagnostic process," said Vidoni, who is assistant director of the University of Kansas Alzheimer's Disease Center in Kansas CityIs.

At this point, though, it's too early "to make body composition part of the diagnostic toolbox," he added.

"If weight loss is part of the disease process, this could suggest, along with the many papers linking metabolic dysfunction with AD, that preventing such dysfunction could reduce the progression of AD," said Ian Murray, an assistant professor of neuroscience and experimental therapeutics at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. "Of course this is, at present, speculative."

Previous studies have found that people who are overweight in middle age or earlier have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's. And those who are overweight in their later years actually may have a lower risk of Alzheimer's, something known as the "obesity paradox."

Vidoni and his partners looked at PET (positron emission tomography) imaging of the brain and analyzed cerebrospinal fluid for markers of
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