3 Alzheimer's Studies Focus On Diet, Aspirin and Movement

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • I’m a sucker for hope when it comes to Alzheimer’s. I like to stay up with the latest research so I can try to make informed decisions and also provide quality information that can help HealthCentral community members in their own care and that of their loved ones. Three studies that have recently been published just caught my eye. The first involves diet and the second looks at low-dose aspirin. The third one involves physical movement in the elderly.

    Mediterranean Diet

    A new study out of Columbia University found that people whose diet closely adheres to a Mediterranean diet were almost 40 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

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    This study involved 2,148 people who were 65 years old and above who did not have dementia when the study started. During the study (which lasted slightly more than 3-1/2 years), the participants reported on their dietary choices and were examined every 18 months to identify any cognitive changes that were consistent with Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers’ analysis of the participants’ dietary records focused on seven nutrients that are potentially related in some way to Alzheimer’s disease – saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin B12 and folate.

    The scientists found that the study participants who ate the highest amounts of fish, tomatoes, poultry, cruciferous vegetables, fruit, dark and green leafy vegetables, and salad dressing while consuming the lowest amount of high-fat dairy products, red meat, organ meats and butter were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.


    Researchers from Sweden followed 700 women between the ages of 70-92, many of whom had heart disease. Their analysis looked at the effect of taking low-dose aspirin (76-160 milligrams) on a daily basis as well as other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The women were assessed on tests of memory, verbal fluency and other cognitive abilities over the five-year period of the study.

    The researchers found that almost all of the women showed some cognitive loss by the end of the study; however, this decline was more pronounced and faster in women who never took aspirin. The researchers learned that women who only took aspirin for a short period of time benefitted from the drug. Furthermore, 66 women who had taken aspirin for the entire period of the study actually saw their cognitive scores improve. However, the women who were taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs did not experience any brain benefits.

    The researchers do not have conclusive evidence that taking a low-dose aspirin can affect mental status or, if it does, how it may do this. They plan to follow these same women for an additional five years to see if this dose may indeed protect the brain, especially in women who have a high risk of cardiovascular disease.

    Link Between Physical Movement, Dementia

    A study out of the University of California, Irvine found a relationship between the quality of elders’ physical performance (including walking) is linked to dementia. This study involved 629 participants, the majority of whom were women. The average age of these participants was 94 years old. These participants were assessed on their ability to walk 13 feet, stand up from a chair, maintain their balance while standing, and grip strength.

  • The researchers found that participants who did not perform well on these tests were more likely to be suffering from dementia. Their analysis found that study participants who weren’t able to walk were almost 30 times more likely than the participants who had the fastest walking times to have dementia. Furthermore, participants whose walking slowed were four times more likely to have dementia. The researchers found that the strongest association between physical performance and dementia was in declining ability in walking, followed by five chair stands, grip strength and standing balance.

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    So what are the takeaways from these studies? I’d suggest that they underscore the importance of a healthy diet and exercise. Furthermore, with your doctor’s okay, you may benefit from taking a low-dose aspirin, especially if you are an older woman.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    Bullain, S. S., et al. (2012). Poor physical performance and dementia in the oldest old.  Archives of Neurology.

    Gardener, H., et al. (2012). Mediterranean diet and white matter hyperintensity volume in the North Manhattan study. Archives of Neurology.

    Liu, D. (2012). Dietary pattern identified to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Foodconsumer.org.

Published On: October 30, 2012