A Tale of Alzheimer's Disease, Nutrition, and Politics
According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, roughly 5.1 million Americans suffer with Alzheimer's disease. The resulting cost of care for patients with dementia including Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to be between $157 and $215 billion dollars in the United States alone. In the New York Times yesterday, an op-ed by Newt Gingrich called for doubling the NIH budget in order to stimulate research programs around the prevention and treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Any research news about nutrition and Alzheimer’s disease recently?
Of course there is. In fact, on Monday the Wall Street Journal reported on a new nutrition program appropriately called the “MIND diet” (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) and its relationship with Alzheimer’s disease incidence. In this prospective cohort study, investigators reported that high adherence to the MIND diet was associated with a 53% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. What is the MIND diet? This diet consists of foods such as blueberries, green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, olive oil, and even wine – all of which have been linked to a reduced risk of cognitive decline. Of course, this study comes with the caveat that it’s an observational trial and cannot prove causality, but nevertheless these data are intriguing.
Nutrition is well known to have an important role in maintaining brain health. Look at vitamin E – last year saw the publication of a clinical trial which showed that vitamin E supplementation significantly reduced the rate of cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Research that is focused on dietary and nutritional approaches to delay the progression of or even prevent Alzheimer's disease has the potential to save a tremendous amount of money in the form of reduced healthcare expenditures. However, these nutritional solutions can only be discovered and proven effective if we financially support research programs around the country. So in a big media week related to Alzheimer’s disease research, let’s remember the essential role that nutrition plays in maintaining health and remain hopeful that future research will continue to shed light on this relationship as long as we support it.
Morris MC, Tagney CC, Sacks FM, et al. MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Dement 2015 (Epub ahead of print).
Dysken MW, Sano M, Asthana S, et al. Effect of vitamin E and memantine on functional decline in Alzheimer disease: the TEAM-AD VA Cooperative Randomized Trial. JAMA 2014; 311(1): 33-44.
Hurd MD, Martorell P, Delavande A, et al. Monetary costs of dementia in the United States. New Eng J Med 2013; 368(14): 1326-1334.