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The role of nutrition in slowing Alzheimer's disease
By Dr. Patrick Massey | Columnist
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Published: 1/25/2010 12:01 AM

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You might be surprised to learn that nutrition may become one of the cornerstones in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Over the past few years, medical research has strongly suggested that the progression of Alzheimer's may be slowed by good nutrition. A nutrient-dense diet, in some cases, might even slightly reverse the progression of Alzheimer's.

Several years ago, I had an office in Milwaukee, Wis. I saw a number of patients with mild to moderate dementia. What I discovered was that intravenous vitamins could significantly improve their performance on standardized memory and cognition tests.

Later that year, at an international Alzheimer's Association meeting, I met Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo, from Boston University. She also was exploring the effect of nutritionally dense food on memory and cognition. I was excited to learn that her results were similar to mine. Unfortunately, she is conducting her clinical research in Boston.

However, last week, I met with Dr. Concetta Forchetti, director of the Memory Disorders Center & Clinical Research at the Alexian Brothers Neurosciences Institute. Dr. Forchetti is an international expert in Alzheimer's and memory-related conditions.

A lot of Alzheimer's research is underway at the Neurosciences Institute and Dr. Forchetti described a number of ongoing clinical trials. One trial really caught my attention. It involves a nutrient-dense food product made by Dannon. Although the exact formulation of this food is a proprietary secret, Dr. Forchetti was able to tell me that it contains high doses of omega-3 oils, vitamin B complex, antioxidants, wheat germ, cereal proteins and other vitamins.

Medical research has shown that omega-3 oils and vitamins can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's. However, most foods are not nutritionally dense enough and dietary supplements are necessary. Not everyone likes to take dietary supplements but the development of an effective, nutritionally dense food might be the answer.

Participants in the clinical trial will consume either the Dannon product or a placebo, once per day, for 24 weeks. Participants' memory and cognition will be tested before and after the 24-week period.

The clinical trial began this week and is open to new participants with mild to moderate dementia. An earlier trial, done at Rush Medical Center in Chicago, was positive. This Neurosciences Institute trial is bigger and will generate even more information.

There is increasing medical evidence that nutrition is important for not only preventing diseases but perhaps reversing them. Based on my personal experience as well as reading the medical literature, I believe that Alzheimer's may be closely linked to chronic nutritional insufficiencies.

If you are interested in more information about this and other clinical trials for Alzheimer's, contact Dr. Forchetti and her research associates at (847) 593-8553.

•Patrick B. Massey, M.D., Ph.D is medical director for complementary and alternative medicine for the Alexian Brothers Hospital Network.