People could have a higher chance of developing dementia if they have diabetes or psychiatric symptoms such as depression according to a new report.

Researchers from the University College London (UCL) examined figures from 62 separate studies, following a total of 15,950 people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The study found that among people with MCI, those with type 1 or type 2 diabetes were 65% more likely to progress to dementia and those with psychiatric symptoms were more than twice as likely to develop the condition.

The report was recently published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Improving your diet and mood may help prevent against conditions like dementia

Dr Claudia Cooper, of UCL Psychiatry and one of the report’s lead authors, said: “There are strong links between mental and physical health, so keeping your body healthy can also help to keep your brain working properly. Lifestyle changes to improve diet and mood might help people with MCI to avoid dementia, and bring many other health benefits. This doesn't necessarily mean that addressing diabetes, psychiatric symptoms and diet will reduce an individual’s risk, but our review provides the best evidence to date about what might help.”

The researchers hoped that the confirmation of these findings could play an important part in reducing the ever-increasing societal burden of dementia in the ageing population by being used in the development of appropriate preventative strategies.

The Alzheimer’s Society charity recommends that people stay socially and physically active to help prevent dementia. Their guidelines also suggest eating a diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in meat and saturated fats, such as the Mediterranean diet.

Professor Gill Livingston, of UCL Psychiatry and senior author of the report, said: “Some damage is already done in those with MCI but these results give a good idea about what it makes sense to target to reduce the chance of dementia. Randomised controlled trials are now needed.”

Professor Alan Thompson, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences, added: “This impressive Systematic Review and meta-analysis from The Faculty of Brain Science’s Division of Psychiatry underlines two important messages. Firstly, the impact of medical and psychiatric co-morbidities in individuals with mild cognitive impairment and secondly, the importance and therapeutic potential of early intervention in the prevention of dementia. Confirming these findings and incorporating appropriate preventative strategies could play an important part in lessening the ever-increasing societal burden of dementia in our ageing population.”

Alzheimer’s Society on the link between dementia and diabetes here
NHS information on dementia can be read here
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