New research shows impact of diet on Alzheimer's disease

New research shows that a nutrient-rich diet plays a key role in protecting our brain health and reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

The details, published in the Annual Review of Food Science and Technology, show that diets containing lots of colourful fruit, vegetables and fish helped prevent damage in key areas of the brain.

The research was carried out over an 18-month period by the Nutrition Research Centre at Waterford Institute of Technology.

It examined the effect of nutritional compounds, found in common foods such as trout, broccoli, and peppers, on people with the condition.

The trial studied people diagnosed with Alzheimer's from a mild to an advanced stage.

Participants were identified to have positive outcomes, including functional benefits in memory, sight and mood, after taking nutritional supplements containing fish oil as opposed to the formula without it.

Head of the centre, Professor John Nolan, outlined the significance of the research findings.

"I suppose where this research has brought some new information to light is connecting the dots between when we say something like the Mediterranean diet, what components of that diet and what molecules within those foods actually can play a role at the retina and the brain, and really that's where science and technology have led with today's research," he said.

Prof Nolan says the findings show a diet high in nutrients plays a huge part in limiting the risks of developing Alzheimer's.

"I would think that dietary modification coupled with lifestyle and wellness optimisation can account for nearly 40-50% of the risk," he said.

"Of course, genetics and many other factors play a role, but the modifiable risk factors which are mainly that diet and lifestyle piece are essential if we are to have any kind of impact on diseases such as Alzheimer's disease."

We know from several large population-based studies that nutrition is a key factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, but attempts to identify an exact combination of nutrients that can positively impact on brain health have failed - until now.

“This work identifies a unique way to enhance the localized nutrients of the brain. Given our growing and ageing population and, importantly, that we live in a time where the nutritional value of foods continues to decline.

"I believe this is a valuable discovery that will challenge perceptions worldwide about the role of nutrition on brain function," he said.

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