The relationship between body mass index (BMI) (in midlife and late-life) and dementia was investigated in meta-analyses of 16 articles reporting on 15 prospective studies. Follow-ups ranged from 3.2 to 36.0 years. Meta-analyses were conducted on samples including 25 624 participants evaluated for Alzheimer's disease (AD), 15 435 participants evaluated for vascular dementia (VaD) and 30 470 followed for any type of dementia (Any Dementia). Low BMI in midlife was associated with 1.96 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.32, 2.92] times the risk of developing AD. The pooled relative risks for AD, VaD and Any Dementia for overweight BMI in midlife compared with normal BMI were 1.35 (95% CI:1.19, 1.54), 1.33 (95% CI: 1.02, 1.75) and 1.26 (95% CI: 1.10, 1.44), respectively. The pooled relative risks of AD and Any Dementia for obese BMI in midlife compared to normal BMI were 2.04 (95% CI: 1.59, 2.62) and 1.64 (95% CI: 1.34, 2.00), respectively. Continuous BMI in late-life was not associated with dementia. Small numbers of studies included in pooled analyses reduce generalizability of findings, and emphasize the need for publication of additional findings. We conclude that underweight, overweight and obesity in midlife increase dementia risk. Further research evaluating late-life BMI and dementia is required.