Scientists have found a way to teach an old beagle forgotten tricks in research that suggests a healthy diet could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s affects one in 20 of those over 65 and nearly a quarter of those over 85, causing dementia, loss of memory, personality changes and, eventually, death.
US researchers linked to Harvard University found older women who ate lots of food high in saturated fats had worse memories than others.
By contrast, those who ate more monounsaturated fats – found in olive oil, sunflower oil, seeds, nuts and avocados – had better memories.
Dr Oliva Okereke, from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass., which is affiliated to Harvard Medical School, said: “When looking at changes in cognitive function, what we found is that the total amount of fat intake did not really matter, but the type of fat did.”
An experimental form of gene therapy has given hope of a significant advance in the treatment of dementia.
The therapy, in which a nerve growth factor delayed the loss of brain cells, led to increased metabolic activity in the brain of Alzheimer’s sufferers and a reduction in the decline of cognitive functions.
Though the study was small, the subjects seemed to show indications of a reduction in the advancement of their disease, according to Prof Mark Tuszynski of the University of California, San Diego, the study’s principal investigator.
Fish may help to protect the brain against the memory loss and cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, scientists reported yesterday.
A study of mice carrying a human gene that causes Alzheimer’s disease suggests that a diet rich in an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA slows progression of the disorder in its later stages.
“This is the first proof that our diets affect how our brain cells communicate with each other under the duress of Alzheimer’s,” said Prof Greg Cole of the University of California, Los Angeles, senior author of the paper in the journal Neuron. “