Diet can sharply cut Alzheimer's risk: study

CHICAGO Mon Apr 12, 2010 5:38pm EDT

A vendor sprays water on vegetables to keep them fresh at a market in the eastern Indian city of Siliguri July 6, 2009. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

A vendor sprays water on vegetables to keep them fresh at a market in the eastern Indian city of Siliguri July 6, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - A diet rich in olive oil, nuts, fish, poultry and certain fruits and vegetables may have a powerful effect at staving off Alzheimer's disease, researchers reported on Monday.

People who ate nutrients specifically selected for brain health had a 40 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease compared with others, Yian Gu, an Alzheimer's disease researcher at Columbia University in New York and colleagues found.

"Diet is probably the easiest way to modify disease risk," said Gu, whose study appears in Archives of Neurology.

She said because there are no cures for Alzheimer's, prevention is key, especially as the population ages.

"If we follow this diet, that means the risk of getting the disease will be lowered for the population," Gu said in a telephone interview.

While other studies have looked at individual nutrients, Gu's team studied groups of foods high in nutrients that have been shown to be associated with Alzheimer's disease risk.

Some, such as saturated fatty acids in red meat and butter, need to be avoided. Others, such as omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin B12 and folate, benefit the brain.

To study this, the team collected information on the diets of 2,148 healthy people over 65 for an average of 4 years. They were checked for Alzheimer's disease every 18 months.

Of these, 253 developed Alzheimer's, which has no cure.

Those least likely to develop the disease ate more olive oil-based salad dressing, nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, fruits, and dark and green leafy vegetables and ate less red meat, organ meat or high-fat dairy products.

"People who adhered mostly to this dietary pattern compared to others have about a 40 percent reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease," Gu said.

She said the diet likely works in two ways. Because it is rich in heart-healthy foods, it may be protecting the brain from strokes that could make it more vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease.

But it also may be that the nutrients -- such as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and folate -- directly protect the brain.

Current treatments helps with some symptoms, but cannot reverse the course of Alzheimer's, a mind-robbing form of dementia that affects more than 26 million people globally.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Comments (1)
AOS wrote:
It is difficult to imagine the scale of what would be the positive trans-national economic and personal health benefits if a low glycaemic index (GI) diet and Mediterranean style diet advocated by this and other studies authors were embraced by governments and became a public health policy initiative across the affluent world.

However it is unlikely that the majority of people who have become accustomed to, or have been conditioned by the food processing industry and the supermarket sectors into eating highly refined carbohydrates, for example, biscuits and cakes would have the necessary willpower to avoid or reduce such potentially harmful ways of eating that any government initiated health education campaigns would try to achieve.

Adopting healthier eating lifestyle choices would be even trickier in the poorer sectors of our societies where low disposable incomes increase the appeal of supermarket promoted, “buy two get one free” offers on confectionary. Putting enough food on the table to feed the family may for many people more of an incentive to consign a perceived siren message of unhealthy diet and lifestyle into the metaphorical waste bin, in spite of any health promotion messages to the contrary.

If we accept that personal choice and responsibility for our future health may not be an easily exercisable option for some members of our societies, then perhaps the draconian step of taxation, modelled on the alcohol and tobacco industries, on the production and distribution of food with a high glycaemic index would help to fund the health care costs associated with the future epidemic of dietary and obesity related morbidity including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and dementia.

Alan Szmelskyj

Godmanchester and St Neots Osteopathic and Acupuncture Practices, Cambridgeshire, England

Apr 13, 2010 6:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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