By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Overeating may lead to a higher risk of memory loss say researchers. A new study found that elderly who consumed more than 2,143 calories a day had more than double the risk of a type of memory loss called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) compared to those who ate fewer than 1,500 calories a day. The study appeared Sunday by the American Academy of Neurology on its website (aan.com).
Yonas Geda, lead author of the study and a neuropsychiatrist at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz suggested that the more calories older people consumed, the more likely they were to have mild cognitive impairment. Other investigators from Australia have shown that excessive calorie intake is associated with a greater risk of mild cognitive impairment, he says.
MCI is characterized by a condition between normal forgetfulness due to aging and early Alzheimer's disease. People with MCI have problems with memory, language or thinking severe enough to be noticeable to other people and to show up on tests, but not serious enough to interfere with daily life, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Not everyone diagnosed with MCI goes on to develop Alzheimer's, the association says.
For this study Geda and colleagues followed 1,233 people ages 70 to 90 in Olmsted County, Minn. The participants did not have dementia, but 163 had mild cognitive impairment. Researchers calculated their daily calorie intake based on food questionnaires. The researchers then divided the participants into three equal groups. The first group consumed 600 to 1,526 calories daily; a second between 1,526 calories and 2,142 calories and a third, more than 2,143. The results took into account other factors such as age, sex, education level, history of stroke, and depression.
The researchers did not control for diet quality in this analysis, but are looking at diet and exercise for future analysis. This is one study so “we have to be extremely careful about generalizations,” Geda says. “The first step is that we have to confirm this finding in a bigger study. Certainly, we are not recommending starvation or malnutrition.”
Neurologist Neelum Aggarwal, a member of the American Academy of Neurology, says these findings should encourage physicians and health care providers to start the discussion about the links between common healthy living practices, including eating a healthy diet, limiting sugar, to overall cognitive function, with their patients.