Oxford University study links poor metabolic health with elevated dementia risk

Having poor metabolic health is linked to an increased risk of dementia, a study from the University of Oxford has suggested.

The researchers categorised poor metabolic health as having three or more of the conditions that make up what is commonly referred to as metabolic syndrome. Those conditions are:

  • High waist circumference
  • High triglycerides
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood glucose
  • Low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol - occasionally known as 'good' cholesterol

Metabolic syndrome affects around 20-25% of adults across the world and has previously been associated with an elevated risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that, upon analysing the medical records of 176,000 people from the UK Biobank study over a 15-year period, those with metabolic syndrome had a 12% increased risk of developing dementia.

                                                                          Video credit: Canva

The study also showed that the risk of developing dementia increased with the number of metabolic syndrome conditions a participant had. Those with four and five conditions, for example, had a 19% and 50% increased risk of developing dementia respectively.

“Metabolic syndrome is an especially promising target for prevention since each of its individual components are modifiable through lifestyle changes or pharmacological treatments,” said the study’s lead author, Danial Qureshi.

“Learning more about this link is crucial, especially given the rapid increase in dementia cases worldwide and the limited number of effective treatments currently available.”

The University of Oxford highlighted the potential promise this evidence brings.

Although it is possible poor metabolic health could be a consequence of developing dementia, this could be evidence it is actually a contributing factor.

This is because those with the strongest associations between poor metabolic health and dementia risk occurred in people who were diagnosed with the disease more than 10 years later.

The research was published in the Alzheimer’s & Dementia journal.

Image credit: iStock

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