INTRODUCTION: We conducted a meta-analysis of the conflicting epidemiologic evidence on the association between midlife body mass index (BMI) and dementia.
METHODS: We searched standard databases to identify prospective, population-based studies of dementia risk by midlife underweight, overweight, and obesity. We performed random-effects meta-analyses and meta-regressions of adjusted relative risk (RR) estimates and formally explored between-study heterogeneity.
RESULTS: We included 19 studies on 589,649 participants (2040 incident dementia cases) followed up for up to 42 years. Midlife (age 35 to 65 years) obesity (BMI ≥ 30) (RR, 1.33; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.08-1.63), but not overweight (25 < BMI < 30) (RR, 1.07; 95% CI, 0.96-1.20), was associated with dementia in late life. The association with midlife underweight (RR, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.13-1.70) was potentially driven by residual confounding (P from meta-regression = .004), selection (P = .046), and information bias (P = .007).
DISCUSSION: Obesity in midlife increases the risk of dementia. The association between underweight and dementia remains controversial.