Study: Loss of weight may signal onset of Alzheimer's disease

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Unexplained weight loss in the elderly could be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease and may appear several years before the memory lapses that typically define the illness, according to researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

In a 10-year study of 820 Roman Catholic priests, nuns and brothers with an average age of 75 researchers observed that otherwise healthy men and women whose body-mass index decreased the most over the time they were followed for the study were the ones most likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. 

The study results indicate that the disease may attack brain regions involved in regulating food intake and metabolism, as well as memory, and that weight loss is an early symptom, said co-author Dr. David Bennett, director of the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center. The study is featured in the Sept. 27 issue of Neurology.