Cholinesterase inhibitors, a class of medications commonly used to treat dementia, could cause older adults to lose a “harmful” amount of weight, new research suggests.

University of California – San Francisco researchers compared data from a group of seniors. After 12 months, 29.3% of the patients on inhibitors had “significant” weight loss of 10 or more pounds, compared to 22.8% of patients on other medications. Weight loss is a common problem in dementia patients, and is often linked with increased mortality, the researchers wrote.

“Clinicians should take into account the risk of weight loss when weighing the risks and benefits of prescribing cholinesterase inhibitors in patients with dementia,” the authors wrote. “In addition, clinicians should monitor for weight loss if these medications are prescribed and consider discontinuing cholinesterase inhibitors if significant weight loss occurs.”

Researchers said the majority of the data came from male patients, so the inhibitors’ effects on women can’t be generalized without further research. Full results appeared in the August issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

This article originally appeared on McKnight's