PEOPLE with Parkinson’s disease who suffer weight loss may be affected by decreased life expectancy, a new study by Aberdeen University has shown.

The research also shows for the first time that there is a link between weight loss in the early stage of the disease and an increased risk of dementia and more dependency on care as well as reduced life expectancy.

The study, published in Neurology, followed 275 people with Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonian disorders for up to 10 years. It monitored patients’ weight and investigated associations between weight loss and effects of the disease.

The main findings showed that weight loss is common in Parkinson’s disease and in the parkinsonian disorders and can occur in the early stages of the disease.

The team, led by Dr Angus Macleod of Aberdeen University, is proposing that closer monitoring for weight loss in Parkinson’s patients and interventions in those who lose weight, such as a high -calorie diet, might improve life expectancy. It may also reduce dementia and reduce dependence on carers. Macleod explained: “Weight loss is a common problem in Parkinson’s but it wasn’t clear before we did this how common it was, mainly because of biases in previous studies, or what the consequences were of weight loss.

‘‘Our hypothesis was that people who are losing weight were going to have adverse outcomes.

“Our finding that those who lose weight have poorer outcomes is important because reversing weight loss may therefore improve outcomes. Therefore, it is vital that further research investigates whether, for example, high-calorie diets will improve outcomes in people with Parkinson’s who lose weight.”

Meanwhile it has emerged that single men in Scotland are signif- icantly less likely to participate in bowel screening tests compared to those who live with a partner, according to a University of Stirling study.

The findings are among the first to emerge from a pioneering study, Healthy Ageing in Scotland (HAGIS), which has collated comprehensive data on the economic, health and social circumstances of more than 1000 Scots aged 50 and over. Since 2009, Scots aged 50 and over have had the option of taking the free test as part of the Scottish bowel screening programme, which is credited with saving 150 lives a year.

In the case of men living with a partner, 79.5 per cent had taken the test, however, that figure fell to 57.6 per cent for those who lived alone. In women, 77.8 per cent of those living with a partner used the test, compared to 73.3 per cent of those living alone.

Principal investigator David Bell, Professor of Economics at Stirling Management School, said: “Our research indicates that men are significantly less likely to accept the offer of a free bowel screening test if they are living alone, compared to those who have a partner.

“We believe this could be attributed to the support that partners offer each other in terms of encouraging each other to take part in the test. Those living with a partner also have someone to discuss the screening process with, helping to allay concerns and fears.”

Uptake was also lower in deprived communities, the research found. However, there did not seem to be a disparity in the participation rate between those living in urban and rural areas.

The team said this “was not surprising” given the screening was conducted by post.

Bell added: “We believe our findings could help to inform and shape health policy to ensure future campaigns can be targeted at those who are less likely to participate, such as males living alone in deprived areas.

“Ultimately, if the participation rate can be increased, more lives will be saved.”