Being fat as a child may raise risk of dementia in old age, 30-year study reveals

Overweight children may be more prone to getting dementia in old age, research suggests. A study of 1,200 children, who were followed for 30 years, found fitter and skinner youngsters had better thinking skills later in life.

Scientists believe their enhanced cognitive ability could go on to shield them from being robbed of their memories in their old age.

Get moving kids! Experts say more active children have better cognitive abilities in their middle age and this could shield them from dementia

Child obesity rates have soared over the past few decades, with up to one third of youngsters fat by the time they start secondary school.

The rise — also seen in adults — has been blamed on junk food diets and sedentary lifestyles.

There is currently no cure for dementia, the umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders.

But there is no proven way to prevent memory loss either.

Staying healthy and exercise in middle-age have repeatedly been linked to warding off dementia.

Fresh research, published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, suggest the protective effect could start even earlier in life.

Lead author Professor Michele Callisaya, of Monash University in Melbourne, said the findings supported public health strategies to cut childhood obesity rates.

‘Developing strategies… are important because it could contribute to improvements in cognitive performance in midlife,’ she said.

‘The study also indicates that protective strategies against future cognitive decline may need to start as far back as early childhood.’

Soaring obesity levels among children triggers a 50% rise in the number with type 2 diabetes

Spiralling child obesity levels has sparked a huge rise in the number with type 2 diabetes, according to a charity.

The number of children being treated at paediatric diabetes units in England and Wales jumped from 621 in 2015/16 to 973 in 2020/21.

Diabetes UK today called the 57 per cent uptick, spotted over the past five years, ‘concerning’.

It accused the Government of ‘letting our children down’ as it called for concerted action to tackle Britain’s bulging waistline.

And Diabetes UK warned the cost of living crisis could lead to further problems in years to come.

Experts described the mix of soaring obesity levels and squeeze on finances as a ‘perfect storm which risks irreversible harm to the health of young people’.

This, she claimed, is ‘so the brain can develop sufficient reserve against developing conditions such as dementia’.

The study, which began in 1985, tested 1,244 children on how fast they could run a mile, how far they could jump, how fast they could sprint 50m, and how many push-ups they could do in 30 seconds.

The children also had their waist-to-hip ration taken to measure how fat or thin they were.

Participants were tested again between 2017 and 2019, when they were in their 40s — but this time for their cognitive ability.

Tests assessed their reaction time, memory and attention span.

Scientists found those who were fitter and thinner as children scored higher on the quizzes looking at their processing speed and attention.

The authors said this was significant because a decline in cognitive performance in middle-age has been linked with greater odds of mild cognitive impairment and full-blown dementia in old age.

Being fit as a child is thought to improve cardiovascular health by keeping the blood vessels that feed the brain in good condition.

Figures this year showed the proportion of four-and five-year-olds who are obese jumped 46 per cent from 2019/20 to 2020/21.

Rates increased from one in 10 children being obese in their first year of school to one in seven.

In the US a fifth of children and adolescents aged between two-to-19-years-of-age are obese.

The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK today. This is projected to rise to 1.5 million by 2040.

Current estimates are that about 5.8 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias

Globally dementia cases are expected to triple by 2050, with 153million people predicted to be living with the condition within decades.


Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders


Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders (those affecting the brain) which impact memory, thinking and behaviour.

There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.

Some people may have a combination of types of dementia.

Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.

Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.


The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, of which more than 500,000 have Alzheimer’s.

It is estimated that the number of people living with dementia in the UK by 2025 will rise to over 1 million.

In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million Alzheimer’s sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.

As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.

Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.


Currently there is no cure for dementia.

But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted the more effective treatments are.

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