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Folic acid may be most important nutrient to reduce Alzheimer's risk
The results of a long-term study published in the inaugural issue of Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, indicate that consuming adequate levels of the B vitamin folate is associated with the greatest protection against Alzheimer's disease of any nutrient examined. Folate is found in a number of foods, such as leafy green vegetables, but is often destroyed by cooking. Grain products have been fortified with folic acid in the United States since 1998, however, it is believed that many Americans are still deficient in the vitamin. The study is the largest so far to evaluate the association between folate and Alzheimer's risk and to analyze antioxidants and B vitamins at the same time.
Assistant professor of neurology Maria Corrada of the University of California Irvine's Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia and colleagues utilized data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging which was begun in 1958 and includes over 1,400 participants. The current study involved 579 subjects without dementia aged 60 and older who completed seven-day dietary diaries between 1984 and 1991. Fifty-seven of these participants developed Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers found that individuals whose intake of folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin E were higher had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease than those whose intake was less, however when the vitamins were analyzed together, only folate intake was correlated with a significantly decreased risk of the disease. Dr Corrada noted, "The participants who had intakes at or above the 400 microgram recommended dietary allowance of folates had a 55 percent reduction in risk of developing Alzheimer's. But most people who reached that level did so by taking folic acid supplements, which suggests that many people do not get the recommended amounts of folates in their diets."
A Japanese study of 64 patients with Alzheimer's disease and 80 age-matched healthy adults found that the dietary behaviors of Alzheimer's disease patients were markedly different. The Alzheimer's disease patients tended to dislike fish and green-yellow vegetables and took more meats than controls. Nutrient analysis revealed that Alzheimer's disease patients took less vitamin C and carotene and consumed significantly smaller amounts of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) reflecting the low consumption of fish. These habits started from three months to 44 years before the onset of dementia, suggesting these dietary abnormalities are not merely the consequence of dementia (Otsuka 2000).
A study by Giem et al. (1993) investigated the relationship between animal product consumption and evidence of dementia in two cohort studies of 272 and 2984 subjects in California. The matched subjects who ate meat (including poultry and fish) were more than twice as likely to become demented in comparison to their vegetarian counterparts (relative risk 2.18). The discrepancy was further widened (relative risk 2.99) when past meat consumption was taken into account.
A study of 5386 nondemented people found that high intakes of total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol were associated with an increased risk of dementia. Fish consumption was related to a reduced incidence of dementia and Alzheimer's disease (Kalmijn et al. 1997).
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