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Brain shrinkage and BMI: study explores relationship

People in their 60s and 70s could lower their dementia risk if they hit the gym to retain muscle mass and remain at a healthy weight, early results from a new study suggest.

The research team observed about 400 people aged in their 60s and early 70s from Canberra at several different stages over time.

Lead researcher Dr Marnie Shaw, from Australian National University, said the study was the first to show that the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and brain shrinkage changed from midlife to older age.

Shaw said both increasing and decreasing BMI was associated with more brain shrinkage — which has been linked to the onset of dementia — at an older age.

She added weight loss during people’s later years was common and often due to losing muscle mass. “Preliminary results from our research indicate that it’s important for people in later years to go to the gym to maintain a healthy weight and not lose their muscles.”

ANU collaborated with the University of New South Wales on the research, which is published in the International Journal of Obesity.

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