Latest in Alzheimer's research: nutrition guidance

Here are the top takeaways from the 2014 Alzheimer's Association International Conference.

Results from four research studies reported as "developing topics" at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2014 (AAIC 2014) in Copenhagen include significant advances in evidence regarding treatment and early detection of Alzheimer's disease and dementia, as well as new ideas in the basic brain science of dementia that may lead to new diagnostic and treatment targets. 

"Developing topics" at AAIC are authorized late submissions to the conference and often include last-minute calculations and data analyses. More than 150 developing topics abstracts were accepted this year out of the 2,431 total scientific presentations at AAIC 2014. Following are four particularly noteworthy submissions:

A two-year clinical trial in Finland of a multi-component lifestyle intervention in 1,260 older adults at risk for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's showed that physical activity, nutritional guidance, cognitive training, social activities and management of heart health risk factors improved cognitive performance, both overall and in separate measures of executive function, such as planning abilities, and the relationship between cognitive functions and physical movement.

A randomized trial in the U.K. involving family caregivers of people with dementia tested a short psychological support program delivered by graduate students. The intervention significantly reduced caregivers' anxiety and depression, and this impact lasted for two years. At AAIC 2014, the scientists also will report on the impact of the program on costs of care.

In a post-mortem study of more than 340 brains of people identified after death as having Alzheimer's disease-related changes, researchers identified that a third abnormal protein, known as TDP-43, may play an important role in Alzheimer's along with well-known beta-amyloid and tau proteins. People with TDP-43 were 10 times more likely to have been cognitively impaired at death than those without it.

A study in which cognitively normal seniors were measured for brain tau protein levels using positron emission tomography (PET) scans showed that memory decline was linked with higher levels of tau buildup in several brain regions, demonstrating the potential value of these scans in early detection of dementia and in identifying participants for research studies.


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