A Curious Relationship Between Obesity, Diabetes, and Dementia


J. Mark Van Ness: 0000-0001-5902-8735

Document Type

Conference Presentation


Health, Exercise, and Sport Sciences Department

Conference Title

2018 ACSM National Conference


American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)


Minneapolis, MN

Conference Dates

May 29 - June 2, 2018

Date of Presentation


Journal Publication

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise









Publication Date


First Page



Among American adults (age ≥ 18), 36.5% have obesity, 9.3% have diabetes, and more than 4 million have dementia. These pathologies do not develop and progress independently. Compared to adults with a body mass index (BMI) less than 23, overweight adults (BMI>25) have a 10-fold increase in the odds of developing diabetes. In turn, body weight and diabetes appear to exert independent effects on the risk of dementia. More work is necessary to elucidate these relationships.

PURPOSE: To assess the effects of obesity and diabetes on incidence of dementia.

METHODS: We analyzed a hospital population that included 2,306 consecutively admitted patients. We conducted a health history, diagnosed cerebral, metabolic, and cardiovascular diseases, and measured anthropometric and cardiometabolic parameters. Chi-square tests analyzed rates of dementia among patients with and without obesity and diabetes. Logistic regression tested the effects of obesity and diabetes on odds of a dementia diagnosis, holding constant potential confounders.

RESULTS: Across the total sample, 16.3% of patients were obese, 14.3% had diabetes, and 4.6% had dementia. Among obese patients, 26.0% had diabetes; 12.0% of non-obese subjects had diabetes (p<0.001). Among obese patients, 1.6% had dementia; 5.1% of non-obese patients had dementia (p=0.003). Among patients with diabetes, 8.8% had dementia; 3.8% of patients without diabetes had dementia (p<0.001). Logistic regression, holding age and history of stroke constant, found trends for obesity to reduce odds of dementia by 56% (p=0.079) and diabetes to increase odds by 63% (p=0.060). Sex (p=0.418), depression (p=0.608), mean arterial pressure (p=0.837), smoking status (p=0.920), and histories of heart attack (p=0.250), congestive heart failure (p=0.627), and peripheral vascular disease (p=0.943) were not significant. Among patients age ≥ 65 (n=724), 13.8% were obese, 27.2% had diabetes, and 14.0% had a diagnosis of dementia. The same logistic regression preserved its trends for obesity (OR=0.376; p=0.054) and diabetes (OR=1.600; p=0.079).

CONCLUSIONS: Obesity appears to carry a protective role, lowering risk of dementia, while diabetes elevates risk. Given the absence of a relationship with vascular disease, this is more likely a consequence of glucose, insulin, and amyloid metabolism.