"Targeted nutrition" can help improve the quality of life of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the results of a two-year trial conducted in Waterford.
The research builds on previously published studies that found specific nutrients – such as vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and carotenoids – which are depleted in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, can be improved with nutritional supplementation and are associated with improvements in quality of life.
The trial, titled re-MIND (Memory Intervention with Nutrition for Dementia), was carried out by Professor John Nolan and Dr Rebecca Power of the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NRCI) at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) in collaboration with Professor Ríona Mulcahy, a consultant physician in general and geriatric medicine at University Hospital Waterford.
The goal was to explore the effects of carotenoids (plant-based pigments) and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on the natural progression of the mild-to-moderate stage of Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the researchers, the trial is the first “placebo-controlled nutritional interventional trial in patients with Alzheimer’s disease to demonstrate significant improvements in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients [omega-3 fatty acids and carotenoids] for the active intervention group compared to placebo”.
The trial also demonstrated changes in quality of life, with carers reporting improvements in memory, mood, and day-to-day activities for the patients on the active intervention compared to placebo.
Carotenoids were looked at as previous research has found them to be located in parts of the brain that are to do with memory. Prof Mulcahy said their own work has shown that people with Alzheimer’s have lower carotenoids.
Prof Nolan said understanding more about "targeted nutrition and brain function" will allow for the development of "novel pathways to help reduce the risk of neurodegenerative conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease".
"Following this trial, it is clear that quality of life can be enhanced for patients with Alzheimer’s disease who are provided with stable and effective doses of these natural nutrients.
The results of the trial add to the "cumulating body of evidence that targeted nutrition can have a positive impact on symptoms and quality of life in Alzheimer’s disease", added Prof Mulcahy.
"We believe that these results warrant large-scale multi-centre trials in order to continue this essential research and that this goal should be supported by research funding bodies, philanthropy, and Government.”
Prof Mulcahy also highlighted how in 2020, for the first time ever, there were more people aged over 65 than under 65. This brings with it an increase in age-related diseases such as dementia.
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia and she said the prevalence of dementia is doubling every 20 years, and it is the fourth most common cause of death in the world.
She added the study shows there is "real information" about how nutritional intervention can help Alzheimer’s patients.