Food and Behaviour Research

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Nutrition, frailty, and Alzheimer's disease.

Panza F, Solfrizzi V, Giannini M, Seripa D, Pilotto A, Logroscino G (2014) Front Aging Neurosci.  6  doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2014.00221. 

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Currently, available drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease (AD) have only symptomatic effects, and there is an unmet need of preventing AD onset and delaying or slowing disease progression in absence of disease-modifying therapies. Substantial epidemiological evidence suggested the hypothesis that modifiable metabolic, vascular, and lifestyle-related factors may be linked to the development of late-life cognitive disorders (Solfrizzi et al., 2011). Among these proposed factors, one appealing link is the association between dietary habits and the occurrence of AD (Tangney, 2014).

A growing body of evidence suggested that particular diets have been linked to a lower incidence of AD and late-life cognitive disorders (Tangney, 2014). In fact, dietary-related factors, affecting cardiovascular risk, may also influence dementia risk (Solfrizzi et al., 2011). In particular, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, originally developed as a plant-focused dietary plan against hypertension, considers high consumption of vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish, nuts, legumes, poultry, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, and lower intake of sodium, red meat, saturated fats, and sweets. In a randomized clinical trial (RCT), higher levels of accordance with the DASH diet conferred greater cognitive improvements in comparison to control subjects (Smith et al., 2010). Higher adherence to the DASH diet demonstrated also to lower the risk of incident dementia over 6 years of follow-up in a population-based study (Norton et al., 2012). In an 11-years follow-up, higher adherence to both the DASH diet and a Mediterranean-style dietary pattern in older age was associated with a significant reduction in rates of global cognitive decline in the same population-based setting (Wengreen et al., 2013).

The Mediterranean diet (MeDi) is another plant- focused dietary pattern with higher intake of vegetables, fruits, breads, other forms of cereals, nuts, potatoes, legumes, and seeds, with a low-to-moderate consumption of fish, poultry, red meat, and wine, while olive oil is the main source of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). In several recent population-based studies, higher levels of accordance with a Mediterranean-type diet has been linked to slower cognitive decline, reduced risk of AD, transition from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to AD, and decreased mortality in AD patients (Solfrizzi et al., 2011; Tangney, 2014).