Could a Diet Help Prevent Alzheimer's?06/13/11
MONDAY, June 13 (HealthDay News) -- The low-fat, low-glycemic
diet often promoted for general health and well-being may lower the
risk of developing Alzheimer's disease if adopted early in life,
But starting such an eating plan after symptoms surface doesn't
seem to help prevent deterioration of brain function, according to
new research published online June 13 in
Archives of Neurology.
"This is not the first time this concept has emerged, that things you do in midlife or earlier on may have effects later on," said Dr. Marc L. Gordon, chief of neurology at Zucker Hillside Hospital and an Alzheimer's researcher at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y.
"For example, we know that midlife obesity is associated epidemiologically with a higher risk of late-life dementia," he continued. "Whether that's causal or an effect of the disease is open to speculation, but it suggests that there may be periods of vulnerability that are different in different times in the life span."
Although numerous studies have probed connections between
lifestyle factors and cognitive ability, no solid proof yet exists
that diet (or much else) can prevent Alzheimer's, the most common
form of dementia among the elderly.
A low-glycemic diet, which focuses on eating fruits and
vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, avoids spikes in blood
sugar and is said to promote feelings of fullness.
A U.S. National Institutes of Health conference convened last
spring concluded that, for now, older age is the leading known risk
factor for Alzheimer's disease. A gene variation is also tied to
increased risk for the brain disorder, the NIH review said. Experts
at the conference stressed that the general public should still
focus on avoiding behaviors already linked to other chronic
This new study looked at the effect of different diets on
biomarkers associated with Alzheimer's, such as blood sugar levels,
cholesterol and blood lipid levels. The researchers also tested
memory after participants followed the assigned diets.
Twenty healthy adults and 29 with mild memory problems that
could be predictive of Alzheimer's followed either a high-fat, high
simple-carbohydrate diet ("HIGH" diet) or a diet lower in fat and
simple carbohydrates ("LOW" diet).
After four weeks, healthy participants on the LOW diet had
changes in biomarkers, including insulin and lipid levels in the
blood, which were moving away from those normally associated with
In participants with mild cognitive impairment, this diet had
the opposite effect.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Suzanne de la Monte, professor of
neurosurgery and pathology at Brown University and Rhode Island
Hospital in Providence, said it remains to be seen if the changes
noted in this study actually translate, over the longer term, into
differences in risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.
The bottom line, though, is the same as it's been for eons: A
healthy diet lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease,
cancer and maybe even Alzheimer's.
That means staying away as much as possible from processed
foods, de la Monte advised.
A second study, in the same issue of the journal, also looked at
biomarkers and found that different levels were associated with
different measures of cognitive function associated with
This finding could help improve diagnosis of Alzheimer's, which
now relies mostly on clinical observation.
Association has more on this condition.
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