Food for Thought

Nutritional effects on Alzheimer's disease need to be more accurately measured

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A new study suggests efforts to determine the nutritional effect on Alzheimer's disease could be improved by using nutrient “biomarkers” in elderly people at risk for dementia.

Traditional methods of testing nutrition and Alzheimer's disease rely on surveys submitted by patients who self-report what they have eaten. This method is flawed, according to a new study from Oregon State University, since memory impairment may affect participants' ability to recall what they have eaten and digestive issues may prevent nutrients from being absorbed properly.

Methods to determine nutrition's effect on Alzheimer's disease should "accurately reflect the nutritional status of patients,” said Emily Ho, an associate professor of nutrition at Oregon State University, co-author of the study, and lead investigator with OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute. She said the best way to assess nutritional status would be biomarkers based on blood tests.

Ho said knowing the nutritional status of patients is vital during all stages of studies since giving supplements of certain foods to participants who already have normal nutritional status of a particular nutrient may be very different than if the person is deficient.

Muddying the research waters even further is the fact many elderly patients may not absorb or process as many nutrients as well as younger adults.

For the study, researchers recruited 38 elderly participants, half of whom were cognitively healthy and the other half of whom had memory deficits. Comparing the accuracy of nutrient biomarkers to food questionnaires administered twice in one month, the study found the questionnaire was accurate only in determining some nutrient levels -- but only in the group with good memory.

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Review Date: 
January 23, 2011
Last Updated:
January 24, 2011