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Preventative eating for Alzheimer’s

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Paying attention to diet and nutrition always has its rewards. 

“As for people of any age and with or without a health condition like Alzheimer’s disease, a healthy and balanced diet is necessary for optimal brain function,” says Glenn Rees, CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia.

“If you already have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, good nutrition may help to mitigate physical health problems that would be difficult for a person with dementia to articulate.”

Increasing evidence shows people with early Alzheimer’s disease have low levels of certain nutrients compared to healthy individuals of a similar age. People with Alzheimer’s, for instance, may need to particularly address low vitamin B12 levels that lead to fatigue and worsening of symptoms.

“There is a considerable body of evidence that environmental and lifestyle factors including nutrition may help brain health and be protective against dementia, which is important for carers and family members,” Rees said.

He said the brain needs a range of nutrients, fluids and energy to work properly, but the relationship between food and dementia risk is not fully understood at this stage.

Evidence suggests that a high intake of saturated fats and sugars may increase the risk of developing dementia, he said, and “it is likely that a diet that includes a higher consumption of fish, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats in vegetable oil and nuts, and a lower intake of saturated fat in meat and dairy products can help in keeping the brain healthy.”

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have a significant impact on the Australian healthcare system, and finding treatment and management is important. Professor Michael Woodward, geriatrician, director, memory clinic and director of Aged Care Research, Melbourne says that nutrition, and its role in managing the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, cannot be underestimated.

“Medical nutrition is increasingly understood as a useful, and important, component in managing patient health,” said Woodward. “Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating neurodegenerative condition, affecting memory, daily living and independence, causing substantial distress to family members and or loved ones who often become carers. Currently, effective treatment options for Alzheimer’s disease are limited,” he said.

One of the management options for the disease is the medical food Souvenaid, clinically proven to nutritionally support memory function.

After 10 years of research and development into the role of diet and nutrition and Alzheimer’s, Australian specialists and Alzheimer’s Australia support the multi-nutrient drink.

To achieve the nutrients provided by a once-a-day bottle of Souvenaid (125ml), in addition to their normal diet, a person would need to consume 1kg tomatoes, 1.2kg broccoli, 710g spinach, 100g fresh tuna (or 4 tins of tuna), 100g minced beef, 4 eggs, 1 orange, and a handful of brazil nuts.

The brain needs these nutrients in the processes related to learning and memory. This combination of nutrients may be difficult for people with Alzheimer’s to achieve at certain levels from normal dietary intake alone.

Aged Care Research has welcomed the introduction of Souvenaid as a new nutritional management option for those living with mild Alzheimer’s disease. “Souvenaid is not a cure or preventative measure for Alzheimer’s disease,” Woodward said, “It is however a significant advance to the nutritional management of memory function during the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Alzheimer’s Australia CEO explained “medical food” is a category of food product designed to provide some form of medical benefit, usually with minimal risks to the consumer. “Souvenaid simply gives people with mild stage Alzheimer’s another option. The research to date has only established that Souvenaid is helpful for people in the early stages of the disease, and it only acts to improve memory, not other aspects of the condition,” said Rees.

He said “It does not stop the progress of the disease in any way, and it does not work for all or even most people, but for some (around 40 per cent, according to the research) it may slow down, and temporarily improve memory function.”

The multi-nutrient drink is now available nationwide.

“Since starting Souvenaid in February, my husband’s whole demeanour has changed,” said Suzane who is caring for her husband with Alzheimer’s.

She said he is much brighter and happier now, “making jokes and his sense of humour is like it was when we were younger. He is more willing to fill his day with activities like gardening, whereas before he would mope around and not do much at all.”

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