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DSM highlights inadequacy of nutrition in the elderly and its implications for Alzheimer’s type dementia

Kaiseraugst, CH, 12 Aug 2014 12:15 CEST

DSM has published a new paper to further characterize the consequences of insufficient vitamin and nutrient supply on the aging brain. The manuscript, which appears in Nutrition, highlights the contributing factors to the malnourishment of the elderly, which is linked to the progression of pathological events causing Alzheimer’s type dementia. It argues that, to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, neuronal health must be maintained for as long as possible and concludes that the optimal supply of micronutrients plays a vital metabolic role in supporting the normal functioning of the brain. The new research follows a landmark study, published in Neurology, which shows a strong correlation between low vitamin D levels and the risk of developing dementia, further demonstrating the critical importance of micronutrients in protecting the aging brain .  

The paper highlights that a variety of vitamins and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been identified as having essential roles in the metabolism of vital components of a healthy brain and contribute to a myriad of processes, including the synthesis of cell membranes, neurotransmitters, amino acids, amines and steroids that support signal transduction and neuronal health. Energy production in the brain is heavily dependent on several vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins C and A, which are essential co-factors in the metabolic processes responsible for the release of energy from carbohydrates.

There are currently 35 million patients being affected by Alzheimer’s type dementia worldwide, and the number is expected to quadruple by 2050 . It has recently been estimated that low nutrient, high energy food accounts for over 25% of total energy consumption in people older than 50 years in the United States , and 50 to 70% of the residents in German nursing homes have been found to have an unhealthy level of energy intake . The paper has reviewed a variety of social, economic and health related factors that are negatively impacting the supply of micronutrients to elderly people.

“The brain has exceptionally high metabolic activity and uses a large proportion of the body’s total nutrient and energy intake, making the brain susceptible to any shortage of nutrients,” explains Dr. M. Hasan Mohajeri, R&D Human Nutrition and Health, DSM Nutritional Products. “As we age, the brain has altering requirements of essential nutrients including vitamins. Clinical research has shown that the ability to recall events in time and place declines with age, starting at 20 years of age. High nutrient food or targeted nutritional supplements are essential to maintain a healthy brain throughout our developmental and adult years.”

With the increase in prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in our aging population, it is imperative that - in the absence of a cure - we endeavor to delay the onset of neurological degeneration,” adds Professor Manfred Eggersdorfer, Senior Vice-President, Nutrition Science & Advocacy at DSM and Professor for Healthy Ageing at the University of Groningen. “It is forecasted that degenerative neurological conditions will cost global economies trillions in patient healthcare costs over the next 35 years. We encourage healthcare professionals, governments and other key stakeholders to take note of the strong science in support of an alternative, nutritional approach to protecting against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease pathology.”

1 Mohajeri MH, Troesch B, Weber P. Inadequate supply of vitamins and DHA in the elderly: implications for brain aging and Alzheimer’s type dementia. Nutrition Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.06.016
2 Littlejohns, T.J. et al, “Vitamin D and the risk of dementia in Alzheimer’s disease”, Neurology. Published online ahead of print.
3 Hebert LE, Scherr PA, Bienias JL, Bennett DA, Evans DA. Alzheimer disease in the US population: prevalence estimates using the 2000 census. Arch Neurol 2003;60:1119-1122
4 Kant AK. Consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods by adult Americans: nutritional and health implications. The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000;72:929-936.
5 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e. V. Ernährung älterer Menschen in stationären Einrichtungen (ErnSTES-Studies). In Ernährungsbericht 2008. Bonn: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e. V.; 2008;157-204