New research is promising and could lower risk.
Alzheimer’s Disease – the mere words are somewhat terrifying and made all the more so by the dearth of anything that comes close to curing or preventing the disease.
But now a new study suggests that eating foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, chicken, salad dressing and nuts, may be associated with lower blood levels of a protein related to Alzheimer’s disease and memory problems.
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. There is no cure.
Researchers concentrating on beta-amyloid deposits in the brain – deposits most closely associated with the development of Alzheimer’s – say that “while it’s not easy to measure the level of beta-amyloid deposits in the brain … it is relatively easy to measure the levels of beta-amyloid in the blood, which, to a certain degree, relates to the level in the brain.” The study was conducted at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
For the study, 1,219 people older than age 65, free of dementia, provided information about their diet for an average of 1.2 years before their blood was tested for the beta-amyloid. Researchers looked specifically at 10 nutrients, including saturated fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, mono-unsaturated fatty acid, vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin B12, folate and vitamin D.
The study found that the more omega-3 fatty acids a person took in, the lower their blood beta-amyloid levels. Consuming one gram of omega-3 per day (equal to approximately half a fillet of salmon per week), more than the average omega-3 consumed by people in the study, is associated with 20 to 30 percent lower blood beta-amyloid levels.
Other nutrients were not associated with plasma beta-amyloid levels. The results stayed the same after adjusting for age, education, gender, ethnicity, amount of calories consumed and whether a participant had the APOE gene, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
While there is additional research needed, “Determining through further research whether omega-3 fatty acids or other nutrients relate to spinal fluid or brain beta-amyloid levels or levels of other Alzheimer’s disease related proteins can strengthen our confidence on beneficial effects of parts of our diet in preventing dementia,” said the researchers.
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