EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE UNTIL 4 PM ET, March 12, 2001
Study Ties Weight Loss in Female Alzheimer's Patients to APOE e4 Allele
St. Paul, Minn. – The e4 allele of the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE), recently determined to be a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease, may also be a clue to the unexplained weight loss inherent in Alzheimer’s disease, primarily in women. The study is published in the March 13, 2001 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Researchers studied an association between APOE e4 allele and weight loss in nearly a thousand patients, of which 46 had Alzheimer’s disease. They looked at weight loss and other health risk factors at baseline and during a follow-up study 3.5 years later. On average, Alzheimer’s disease patients with the APOE e4 allele lost, whereas those without it gained weight. Clinically significant weight loss, considered more than 5 percent loss of weight, occurred remarkably more often in Alzheimer’s disease patients, and to a lesser extent in control subjects who were carrying the APOE e4 gene. When women and men were analyzed separately, weight loss was observed only in the women with Alzheimer’s and who were carriers of the APOE e4 allele. Among the controls – those not diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but who carried the APOE e4 allele -- a lesser degree of weight loss or change in body mass index (BMI) was found in both women and men. Matti Vanhanen, MD, a neuropsychologist with the Kuopio University Hospital in Kuopio, Finland, where the study was conducted, said: “Our study demonstrated that APOE e4 allele is associated with weight loss, especially in women with Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, both patients and controls with the e4 allele experienced more often clinically significant weight loss than the non-carriers during the 3.5 year follow-up period.” Weight loss in Alzheimer’s disease could be caused by inadequate energy intake or by abnormally high energy expenditure, or both. Recently, APOE e4 allele has been associated with impaired sense of smell, which could cause a decrease in appetite, and cause weight loss. The exact reasons for weight loss, however, remain to be proven, said Vanhanen.
The American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with 32,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.