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Rising dementia by 2050

Worldwide Dementia Patients Set to Triple by 2050, Study Says

(Bloomberg) -- Dementia will ravage the minds of 153 million people globally in 2050, about three times more than in 2019, according to a study that shows the rising stakes for public-health policy along with successful therapies from drugmakers.  

By Irina Anghel

Word Count: 486
The tripling of cases of cognitive illnesses that include memory-robbing Alzheimer’s disease is tied to national trends in risk factors including obesity, diabetes, low education and smoking, according to the Global Burden of Disease study. Published Thursday in the Lancet Public Health journal, the analysis looked at 195 of the world’s countries and territories.Government and public-health officials are looking to design targeted policy to tackle the risk of debilitating dementia, the seventh leading cause of death worldwide. Drugmakers are also trying to design therapies to take on the Alzheimer’s threat, such as Biogen Inc.’s Aduhelm, which has seen just minimal uptake since its approval in June.

“Even modest advances in preventing dementia or delaying its progression would pay remarkable dividends,” said lead study author Emma Nichols of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle. “To have the greatest impact, we need to reduce exposure to the leading risk factors in each country.”

Sought by numerous companies, Alzheimer’s drugs have so far shown limited effectiveness in countering dementia. Biogen’s Aduhelm was approved on the basis of its ability to remove a disease-linked protein from the brain; its impact on thinking still isn’t clear.

Read More: Biogen’s 2022 Boom or Bust Hangs on Alzheimer’s Therapy

Meanwhile, other companies including Eli Lilly & Co. and Roche Holding AG are working on similar therapies. Biogen also has another protein-clearing drug in development.

The researchers found improved access to education could cut the increase in dementia patients by 6.2 million by 2050. However, that would be more than offset by an estimated 7 million extra cases tied to trends in obesity, high blood sugar and smoking.

‘Apocalyptic Projections’

North Africa, the Middle East and eastern sub-Saharan Africa are forecast to see the biggest surge in dementia, an estimated four-fold increase. In contrast, the study saw lower increases in wealthier countries in the Asia-Pacific region and western Europe.

Women living with dementia will continue to outnumber their male counterparts in 2050, the study found, due to a combination of genetic risk factors and longer life expectancy, as the risk of dementia rises with age.

Still, the trajectory forecast by the study could change if appropriate action is taken, according to an accompanying commentary in the same journal.

The study gives “apocalyptic projections that do not factor in advisable changes in lifestyle over the lifetime,” Bordeaux University Hospital doctors Michael Schwarzinger and Carole Dufouil, who were not involved in the analysis, said in the commentary. “There is a considerable and urgent need to reinforce a public health approach towards dementia to better inform the people and decision makers about the appropriate means to delay or avoid these dire projections.”

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.
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  • Sam Joubs says:

    This study would have been significantly more believable if drinking was included as a contributing factor. However, only smoking makes it to the A-list. And why is Northern America not on the list? You only have to look at their current politics to know that mental illness has already surpassed obesity as a national problem.

  • Raymond Auerbach says:

    The Lancet study also gives little attention to the role of the deteriorating food systems worldwide. As more poisons, higher levels of synthetic fertilisers and more food processing wreak havoc on the healthiness of our food and on our environment, the contribution of industrial agriculture to diabetes, obesity and age-related disease becomes ever clearer. The solution is a combination of increasing physical activity, decreasing the amount of processed food consumed and increasing the proportion of organic food in the diet, as shown by the research of the French team under Prof Denis Lairon. The link gives over thirty recent peer-reviewed research publications emanating from a major study following the health of a large cohort. The Organic Food Systems Programme has also collaborated with the UN Sustainable Food Systems Programme to promote healthy food systems.

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