Midlife Weight Loss Linked to Mild Cognitive Impairment

Rosebud O. Roberts, M.B., Ch.B. Mayo Clinic Rochester, Minn.

Dr. Rosebud Roberts

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Rosebud O. Roberts, M.B., Ch.B.
Mayo Clinic
Rochester, Minn. 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Roberts: Decline in weight has been observed 10-20 years prior to onset of dementia. We wanted to study whether this decline also occurs for mild cognitive impairment (an intermediate stage in the progression from normal cognition to dementia).

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Roberts: The main finding was that there was indeed a decline in weight (from the maximum weight in midlife to weight assessed in late life) was associated with a increased risk of mild cognitive impairment.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Roberts: For clinicians, observed unintended weight loss may help identify patients who may be declining cognitively or at risk for  mild cognitive impairmen. For patients, this unintended weight loss may be a signal to examine whether to increase efforts to engage in lifestyle measures that are reported to be beneficial for cognitive function.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Roberts: To encourage people to engage in healthy behaviors that reduce risk of cognitive impairment such as healthy diet, exercise, reduce smoking obesity.  In addition, to seek help from health professionals if they notice unintentional weight loss. 

Medical Research: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dr. Roberts:   At present, the full implications of our findings are unclear, but it appears the decline in weight may be part of a pre-dementia syndrome, but it is unclear what precipitates this. Hypotheses include:

1) as yet unidentified factors related to dementia;

2) changes in the brain that occur prior to onset of dementia- e.g. brain changes may affect hormones that regulate eating habits,

3) neuropsychiatric symptoms such as depression or apathy that may impact diet,

4) changes in smell (impaired smell is associated with dementia) that may affect eating habits and lead to weight loss.


Rosebud O. Roberts, MB, ChB et al. Decline in Weight and Incident Mild Cognitive Impairment: Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. JAMA Neurology, February 2016 DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.4756

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Last Updated on February 1, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD