No Proof Healthy Lifestyle Prevents Alzheimer’s
Despite Findings, People Shouldn't Toss Healthy Habits Like Physical and Mental Exercise, Researchers Say
Preventing Alzheimer's Disease: Panel Conclusions
Overall, the panel says: "Currently, firm conclusions cannot be drawn about the association of any modifiable risk factor with cognitive decline or Alzheimer's disease."
The panel also says the evidence is ''insufficient'' to support the use of pharmaceutical agents or dietary supplements to prevent cognitive decline or Alzheimer's disease.
Yet they suggest the ongoing research on omega-3 fatty acids, physical activity, and cognitive engagement -- keeping mental faculties sharp -- "may provide new insights into the prevention or delay of cognitive decline or Alzheimer's disease."
The conclusion of no definitive link even applies to those with the ApoE (apolipoprotein E) gene, associated with late-onset Alzheimer's. "Not everyone who has ApoE will get it," Daviglus says.
The panel members called for more research. "One thing the report has shown us,'' says Bell, emphasizing that this is his opinion, is, ''we probably need to look at intervention [in research studies] at an earlier age."
Many studies include participants who are older when the research begins, he says, and the cognitive decline may have already begun.
Preventing Alzheimer's Disease: Other Opinions
As discouraging as the report conclusions may seem, there is reason for hope, says Greg Cole, PhD, associate director of the University of California Los Angeles Alzheimer's Center and director of dementia research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles. Cole has been an expert panel member for Martek Biosciences Corporation, which makes omega-3 products. He reviewed the report for WebMD.
"I think the panel is duly cautious," he says, noting that they followed the edict to review rigorously the science and accept only conclusive evidence.
''But I think they are less optimistic than what would be warranted," he says.
Likewise, Maria Carrillo, PhD, senior director of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer's Association, says the conclusions should not discourage people. "Our first reaction is that we understand there are no definitive answers [for preventing Alzheimer's disease] and we've been saying that."
But the panel, she says, "actually laid out a fantastic research agenda for getting those answers."
Meanwhile, she says, people should continue to follow good healthy habits -- especially those designed to minimize heart disease. "There is evidence that reducing those risks can improve your brain health," she says.