It would appear that “Dementia”, in its milder forms, is nothing more than a mild loss of memory. In its more severe, but still mild, forms, it can take the guise of mild disorientation; sometimes so mild that one is not even aware of being disoriented. The milder cases were likely referred to in olden times as “senility”. Something none of us ever aspired to.

However, there is a new body of information accumulating, and now published, which indicates that “dementia” could be the result of a natural condition, and which, if true, puts at least half of the North American population “at risk”!

What is that condition? It is “obesity” and it is rampant in North America, affecting at some estimates upwards of 60% of the population. And, according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, it is particularly harmful to people in the 40’s and up. The study tracked 10,000 men and women over a period of 27 years.

US scientists found people who were obese and between the ages of 40 and 45 were 74 per cent more likely to have dementia later in life compared to those of “normal” weight. And its worse for women: women were 200 per cent more likely to have dementia if they were obese in their 40’s.

Another downer: overweight people generally were 35 percent more likely to have the brain illness (or condition).

According to Rachel A. Whitmer, a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente, a non-profit medical group in Oakland, CA, “We’re having an epidemic of obesity that we’ve never seen before and we know it causes a wide variety of illness. And now we can add to the list. We are going to see an unprecedented increase in dementia as the baby boomers age.”

It’s not known whether people can lower their risk of dementia if they lose the excess weight, “but that’s one of the implications of the study,” Whitmer says.

In addition, two smaller studies also found signs of brain atrophy, or shrinkage, among women with a high body mass index (or BMI – a measure of body fat based on a ratio of weight to height). A normal BMI is between 18.6 and 24.9.

Finally, a recent Swedish study found a high BMI in old age is associated with an increased risk of dementia in women.

OK, the jury is still out. Is it guaranteed that just being overweight means I will get dementia? And, is this a “disease” or is it a “condition of imbalance”. Finally, in either case, can it be corrected and if so, how? Will it respond to diet? Will it respond to aromatherapy? Will it respond only to medical (read that chemical”) intervention? Interesting questions for future articles on Dementia so stay tuned.