Overeating can double the risk of memory loss in old age, according to a new study.
Scientists in the US have found that a high-calorie diet can significantly increase the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a syndrome characterised by mild memory loss, which can precede dementia.
The study analysed the dietary habits of 1,200 people aged between 70 and 89 who did not have dementia. The subjects were also given memory tests.
It was found that the chances of developing MCI increased substantially with those who ate more than 2,100 calories a day.
Study author Dr Yonas Geda from the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, said, as cited in the Daily Mail: 'We observed a dose-response pattern, which means: the higher the number of calories consumed each day, the higher the risk,” he said.
“Cutting calories and eating foods that make up a healthy diet may be a simpler way to prevent memory loss as we age.”
The researchers will present the findings, which have not yet been published, at the American Academy of Neurology’s 64th annual meeting in New Orleans in April.
Dr Marie Janson of Alzheimer's Research UK said: "Although these findings are yet to be published, they touch on an interesting subject.
"The initial report suggests older people who consume a high number of calories may be at greater risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.
"It would be interesting to see how many of these people go on to develop dementia in the future, to see if there is link to Alzheimer's disease.
"We know that age is one of the greatest risk factors for dementia, but adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, is beneficial in protecting against dementia along with a number of other chronic diseases.
"With 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia, and this number expected to rise dramatically with the ageing population, there is a desperate need to understand more about the risk factors involved. To make real progress, we must invest in research."
Another recent study found that despite more women developing dementia than men, men are at higher risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.
Numerous studies show that simple lifestyle changes can cut the risk of cognitive decline and the onset of dementia.