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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Weight Loss and Alzheimer's Disease in Down Syndrome

January 2023 | Fleming et al. - Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (2023)


Background: Virtually all adults with Down syndrome (DS) develop Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology, but research gaps remain in understanding early signs of AD in DS.

Objective: The goal of the present study was to determine if unintentional weight loss is part of AD in DS. The specific aims were to: 1) examine relation between chronological age, weight, AD pathology, and AD-related cognitive decline were assessed in a large cohort of adults with DS, and 2) determine if baseline PET amyloid-β (Aβ) and tau PET status (-versus ) and/or decline in memory and mental status were associated with weight loss prior to AD progression.

Methods: Analyses included 261 adults with DS. PET data were acquired using [11C] PiB for Aβ and [18F] AV-1451 for tau. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated from weight and height. Direct measures assessed dementia and memory. Clinical AD status was determined using a case consensus process. Percent weight decline across 16-20 months was assessed in a subset of participants (n = 77).

Results: Polynomial regressions indicated an 0.23 kg/m2 decrease in BMI per year beginning at age 36.5 years, which occurs alongside the period during which Aβ and tau increase and memory and mental status decline. At a within-person level, elevated Aβ, decline in memory and mental status were associated with higher percent weight loss across 16-20 months.

Conclusion: Unintentional weight loss occurs alongside Aβ deposition and prior to onset of AD dementia, and thus may be a useful sign of AD in DS.

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