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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
Diet 'could reduce Alzheimer's risk'
The costs of caring for dementia patients is high
The costs of caring for dementia patients is high
Eating the right diet could help stave off Alzheimer's disease, scientists have found.

Two studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found people who ate foods rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E and C were less likely to develop Alzheimer's.

Antioxidants are important because they combat the body's free radicals - charged particles, produced by the body, which can damage cells.

Click here for more information on Alzheimer's disease

A Dutch study questioned 5,395 people aged 55 and over about what they ate.


These two studies do not provide the final answer to whether antioxidant vitamins are truly protective against Alzheimer's disease

JAMA editorial
The group were followed over six years by researchers from the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam.

Just under 200 developed dementia, and of those 146 had Alzheimer's.

But those who had a high intake of the antioxidants vitamins C and E, flavanoids and beta-carotene4 were less likely to develop the disease.

The risk appeared to be most reduced for people who smoked.

Slowing down disease

A second study, by researchers at Rush-Presbyterian-St Luke's Medical Center in Chicago followed 815 volunteers aged 65 and over for almost four years.

They also looked at antioxidant intake and found people with the most vitamin E in their diets had the greatest protection against Alzheimer's.

Those in the top fifth of vitamin E intake had a 675 lower risk of developing Alzheimer's than those who got the least vitamin C from food.

Both studies back up earlier findings that high antioxidant intake protects against Alzheimer's.

Dr Neil Buckholtz of the National Institutes of Health, which backed the US study, said: "The only way this association can really be tested is through clinical studies and trials now underway.

"These will help us determine whether vitamin E in food or supplements - or taken together - can help prevent or slow down the development of mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease."

But in an editorial in JAMA, Daniel Foley of the National Institute of Aging in Bethesda, Maryland and Dr Lou White of the Pacific Research Institute, Honolulu, Hawaii questioned the studies' results.

"Despite the concordance of the findings, these two studies do not provide the final answer to whether antioxidant vitamins are truly protective against Alzheimer's disease."

'Huge importance'

A third study published this week found a drug which lowers blood pressure can also reduce the risk of people with strokes suffering dementia by a third.

Dementia - the loss of normal cognitive function - is ability to think, reason and process information - can be a consequence of Alzheimer's, but can also be brought on by recurrent strokes.

The international Progress study, which followed more than 6,000 people who had had strokes, or "mini-stokes" identified a 34% reduction in dementia in people with recurrent strokes.

The study, presented to the International Society of Hypertension in Prague, Czech Republic, found patients given the Ace-inhibitor drug perindopril also reduced the risk of severe cognitive decline following recurrent strokes by nearly half.

The four-year study allocated patients either perindopril or a dummy version.

Professor John Chalmers, from the University of Sydney, Australia, one of the lead researchers, said: "The importance of this is huge.

"Stroke is a very expensive illness anyway, and with dementia you have the additional costs of rehabilitation and nursing home care."

The Progress study has already shown that perindopril reduces the risk of heart attacks and recurrent strokes by a third.

See also:

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