Time Path of Weight Status Before and After Incident Dementia

Yuan S. Zhang, Virginia W. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Identifying whether obesity is a risk factor for dementia is complicated by the possibility of weight change as dementia evolves. This article investigates an extended time path of body mass index (BMI) before and after incident dementia in a nationally representative sample. Methods: Using the Health and Retirement Study (2000–2016), we examine (1) the longitudinal relationship between BMI and incident dementia and (2) heterogeneity in the BMI trajectory by initial BMI level. Results: Weight loss begins at least one decade before incident dementia, then accelerates in the years immediately preceding dementia onset and continues after incident dementia. Those with higher levels of BMI at baseline experienced a much greater decline relative to those with a normal weight. Discussion: Our results help explain the contradicting findings in the literature regarding the relationship between obesity and dementia and highlight the need for using extended longitudinal data to understand dementia risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-109
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Aging and Health
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • cognitive health
  • health and retirement study
  • obesity
  • weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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