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Average Americans are 15 pounds heavier than in the 1990s

11th August 2016
Average Americans are 15 pounds heavier than in the 1990s

Two interesting studies were published this month, both related to body weight and its impact on health. The first one refers to the average weight of Americans, and the second one to the link between BMI and cognitive decline. We’ll discuss each of these in today’s article.

American adults, 15 pounds heavier than 20 years ago

The number of gyms, health and fitness apps, diet plans and weight loss solutions available on the market increases year after year, and so does the body weight of the average Americans, a new U.S. estimate shows.

According to new statistical data released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average weight of males rose from 181 pounds in the 1990s to 196 pounds in 2011-2014, while the average height remained around 5 ft 9 inches. This means men are 15 pounds heavier than they were 20 years ago.

The situation is similar for women, whose average body weight increased from 152 pounds in the 1990s to 169 pounds between 2011-2014, the average weight being 5 ft 4 inches. So on average women are 17 pounds heavier than they were 20 years ago.

These numbers were obtained by analyzing a sample of over 19,000 people, and are worrying, as they affect not only adults but kids as well. On average, 11-year old kids are 13.5 pounds heavier than in the 1990s, although the average height remained the same as 20 years ago.

This is not only a problem of esthetics. Carrying extra pounds and being overweight or obese affects not only the way you look, but also your internal organs and overall health state. An average body weight that is 15 pounds higher means a higher BMI as well.

BMI comes from Body Mass Index, and estimates the percentage of fat tissue in one’s body, classifying people in normal, overweight and obese. A lower BMI is linked with a better health state, while a higher BMI increases the risk for diabetes, heart disease, fractures, kidney problems and so on.

Lower BMI linked with increased Alzheimer’s risk in seniors

Although having a higher BMI is linked with an increased risk for numerous ailments, a lower weight in seniors seems to favor cognitive decline and to make one more prone to developing Alzheimer’s disease. These findings were published  by researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, reinforcing the idea that being underweight after a certain age can do more harm than good.

The researchers observed that seniors who were cognitively healthy but had a lower BMI had more widespread brain deposits of a protein (beta-amyloid) that is the main component of the plaque leading to Alzheimer’s disease. In Alzheimer’s patients, the plaques form when the mentioned proteins clump together. As this happens, the transmission of nerve signals from one cell to another is altered, and the immune system cells may be activated.

Plaques tend to spread through the brain in a predictable pattern as Alzheimer’s disease progresses, but in some patients the symptoms only start manifesting or are detected in the middle and advanced stages of the ailment, and not in the early ones.

For example, in the early stages, the plaques affect the brain areas that control thinking, planning, learning and memory, but one may not realize they have issues with these cognitive activities until other symptoms, like speaking or understanding problems, trouble handling money, confusion or behavior changes occur.

In the mild to moderate stages, the protein plaques extend in other brain regions, causing the previously mentioned symptoms as well as problems with understanding speech, recognizing friends or family members, personality changes, problems organizing their thoughts and so on.

The researchers who conducted the study mentioned that it is not yet clear whether a lower BMI in seniors does predict the development of Alzheimer’s system, and whether gaining weight can influence or change the outcome.

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