While presently there are no medications available to prevent or treat Alzheimer's disease, recent studies on the diet to help improve cognition give hope for people suffering from dementia.
Several years ago, Dr. Richard Wurtman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a mixture of three nutrients that seemed to improve memory in rodents by enhancing the connections of neurons in the brain. These nutrients an omega-3 fatty acid found in fatty fish and walnuts, and is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain; a nutrient that is part of the B vitamin family and is found in eggs, nuts and meats; a protein molecule that is harder to obtain from foods, but can be found in sugar beets and broccoli.
In 2008, a proprietary blend of these nutrients known as Souvenaid was tested in a group of 225 patients with mild Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Philip Scheltens, director of the Alzheimer Center at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, led this study, which showed that 40% of people taking the Souvenaid beverage every day for three months showed an improvement in verbal memory.
This month, Scheltens' team published data from a more extensive study of Souvenaid. A group of 259 people with early-stage Alzheimer's disease were followed for six months. Memory seemed to improve after six months for the patients taking Souvenaid.
What's also fascinating about this study is that in addition to memory testing, the researchers also looked at participants' EEGs to assess brain function and activity. They found that the EEGs of the patients who received the Souvenaid began to shift from dementia-type patterns to more normal patterns as the study progressed.
A new two-year study is now under way in people with mild cognitive impairment to see if Souvenaid can help prevent progression to dementia. If this trial proves beneficial, it could significantly alter the way in which we approach cognitive impairment – we might be able to treat people with early cognitive changes and even prevent full-blown dementia from developing in the first place, or at least delay its onset. This would be a huge advance in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's.
In the meantime, you can increase your intake of these nutrients by your food choices: Wild salmon, sardines and herring, liver, wheat germ and eggs, sugar beets, broccoli and beer.
Even though we still have many unanswered questions regarding dementia, it seems clear that nutrition and lifestyle play an important role, and it certainly can't hurt to begin now to feed your brain with these healthy nutrients.
The Sacramento Bee