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Obesity in middle age could be a major risk factor for dementia, it has been claimed.

Researchers at the French medical research institution INSERM examined the cognitive function, body mass index and conditions such as diabetes and blood pressure of 6,401 adults aged between 39 and 63 over a 12-year period.

According to findings published in Neurology, participants who were either overweight or obese and had at least two metabolic abnormalities had the fastest cognitive decline, whilst obesity and conditions such as diabetes were individually found to have a significant effect on cognition.

Jessica Smith, research officer at the Alzheimer's Society, said: 'These results back up existing evidence that obesity in mid-life increases the risk of developing dementia, as well as adding to our understanding of the relationship between dementia and our metabolism.

'One in three people over the age of 65 will die with some form of dementia. The best way of reducing your risk of developing dementia is to eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked.'

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