Overeating may have effects beyond a big waistline -- a new study shows it could also affect seniors' memory.
A new study, to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in April, shows that elderly people who eat up to 6,000 calories a day may have a doubled risk of developing a type of memory loss called mild cognitive impairment.
"We observed a dose-response pattern, which simply means the higher the amount of calories consumed each day, the higher the risk of MCI," study researcher Dr. Yonas E. Geda, MD, MSc, of the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., said in a statement.
Mild cognitive impairment is more pronounced memory loss than what normally comes from aging, and is considered a risk factor of later developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. Recently, a study in the journal Neurology showed that rates of mild cognitive impairment may be higher than previously expected, with men having a higher risk of the condition than women.
Geda's study involved 1,233 people who were between ages 70 and 89, who didn't have dementia; 163 of these people had mild cognitive impairment.
Researchers had the study participants say how many calories they ate or drank each day, and then they divided them up into three groups based on their caloric consumption. One group took in between 600 and 1,526 calories a day; the second group took in between 1,526 and 2,143 calories a day; and the third group took in between 2,143 and 6,000 calories a day.
Researchers found that the third group, which took in the most calories a day, were more than twice as likely to have mild cognitive impairment as the group that took in the fewest calories. These results held true even after researchers factored in history of diabetes and stroke, level of education and other memory-loss risk factors.
The recommended daily intake of calories differs by age group, sex and physical activity level, according to WebMD. For example, a woman between age 19 and 30 who is moderately active should consume between 2,000 to 2,200 calories a day, while a moderately active woman age 51 and older should get 1,800 calories a day. (For the full chart from WebMD, click here.)