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They found that over 12 years people with the highest leptin levels were four times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those with the lowest. Cases of Alzheimer’s are predicted to rise dramatically in coming decades, in part because of our ageing population. At the moment around 700,000 people in Britain have dementia, of which around 400,000 have Alzheimer’s, the most common form of the disease. But that figure could rise to 1.7 million by 2051, doctors have forecast. Leptin has previously been linked to the body’s ability to control appetite, according to the findings, published in Jama, the Journal of the American Medical Association, Previous studies have also shown that obesity in middle age can increase the risk of developing dementia. Dr Wolfgang Lieb, from Boston University, who led the latest study, said: "These findings are consistent with recent experimental data indicating that leptin improves memory function in animals.
Validated tests were carried out at the start and end of the two year period to find out if they had a dementing illness. Similarly, blood tests were taken to assess levels of folate, vitamin B12, and the protein homocysteine, and how these changed over time. High levels of homocysteine have been associated with cardiovascular disease. At the start of the two year period, almost one in five people had high levels of homocysteine, while 17% had low vitamin B12 levels and 3.5% were folate deficient. The higher the levels of folate to begin with, the higher were vitamin B12 levels, and the lower those of homocysteine. By the end of the study, 45 people had developed dementia. Of these, 34 had Alzheimer's disease, seven had vascular dementia, and four had "other" types of dementia.