Got a Big Head? New Study on Big Heads and Dementia

Breaking news… sort of.  I was just watching the news this morning and the recent buzz is surrounding a recent study by researchers in Germany.  You know the Germans make good stuff.  Apparently a new research study suggests that individuals with larger heads can cope with Alzheimer’s disease better than those with smaller heads.

Specifically the researchers found that individuals with larger heads had more intact memory and thinking functions.  The difference is apparent even with an equivalent amount of brain death in both groups.  Quick, grab that tape measure.

From the Press Association:

Specifically for every 1% of brain cell death, an additional centimetre of head size was linked to a 6% improvement in memory.

The study was published in the journal, Neurology.  Lead researcher, Robert Perneczky, provided the following quotes to the Press Association:

“Our findings also underline the importance of optimal brain development early in life, since the brain reaches 93% of its final size at age six.”

Head size is one way to measure brain reserve and growth, he said.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia.  Your risk of developing dementia increases as you age.   In other related Alzheimer’s news:

Vitamin D and E may affect Alzheimer’s disease risk

“One study suggests that low blood levels of vitamin D may increase risk for cognitive decline, while another study shows that consuming a diet rich in the antioxidant powerhouse vitamin E may help reduce the risk for dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

In the vitamin D study of 858 adults aged 65 and older, those with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D — less than 25 nanomoles per liter of blood — were 60% more likely to show signs of general cognitive decline during the six-year study and 31% more likely to show declines in their ability to plan, organize, and prioritize (so-called executive function), than their counterparts who had sufficient blood levels of vitamin D.

In the study of 5,395 people aged 55 and older, those who got the most vitamin E in their diet — 18.5 milligrams per day, on average — were 25% less likely to develop dementia, than their counterparts who got the least vitamin E on their diet, about 9 milligrams per day.”

Vitamin D has been a hot topic lately from Oprah to nearly every other TV show.  Note, that it is a fat-soluble vitamin so if you consume excessive doses, it will build up in your body and can cause toxicity.

Gene Linked to Obesity May Raise Dementia Risk

“A variant of the obesity-related gene FTO may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, finds a new Swedish study.

Previous research has shown that the FTO gene affects body mass index (BMI), levels of leptin (a hormone involved in appetite and metabolism), and the risk for diabetes — all vascular risk factors that have also been linked with the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

[box type=”note”]Granted, your head circumference is determined by genetics and other factors, so it’s too late to do anything there. Other genetic factors also increase risk apparently from the well-established APOE4 gene mutation to the newly established FTO-AA gene variant.[/box]


  • Perneczky, R., Wagenpfeil, S., Lunetta, K.L., Cupples, L.A., Green, R.C., MD, MPH, DeCarli, C., Farrer, L.A., Kurz, A.  Head circumference, atrophy, and cognition: Implications for brain reserve in Alzheimer disease.  Neurology. 75(2):137-142, July 13, 2010.

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