Older adults and individuals with decreased cognition often experience appetite changes and weight loss. As weight loss can result in cognitive decline, change in appetite may be an important contributor to the onset of dementia. However, there is a lack of relevant studies on this topic. This study aimed to determine the relationship between appetite changes, weight loss, and dementia onset.
A total of 135 patients with normal cognitive function, subjective cognitive impairment, and mild cognitive impairment who were assessed using the Neuropsychiatric Inventory 12 item version (NPI-12) and followed up for at least 1 month were enrolled in the study. All patients underwent a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). Eating problems were assessed using the NPI Eating Problems Score. Appetite and weight loss were assessed at the first visit by caregivers. Kaplan–Meier survival analyses with a log-rank test were used to compare the time to the onset of dementia between the presence or absence of the NPI eating problems, appetite loss, weight loss, or NPI depression scores. Cox proportional hazards regression models using the forced entry method were employed to estimate the hazard ratio (HR) for dementia.
Weight loss was significantly related to dementia onset (P = 0.027) in the Kaplan–Meier survival analyses, while eating problems, appetite loss, and depression showed no significant association (P = 0.519, P = 0.326, and P = 0.317, respectively). In the Cox proportional hazards regression models, the MMSE score was found to be a significant factor (P = 0.021, HR = 0.871); moreover, weight loss tended to increase the risk of dementia onset (P = 0.057, HR = 1.694).
Weight loss experienced by older adults could contribute to an increased risk of developing dementia.