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HEALTH REPORT - July 30, 2003: Fats and Alzheimer's Disease - 2003-07-29

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

A medical study says foods rich in a kind of fat may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a slowly increasing brain disorder, usually found in older people. It affects about twelve-million people around the world. There is no cure.

The researchers found that the people who ate fish at least once a week had a sixty percent lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s than those who did not. Oily fish like salmon have omega three fatty acids. This fat has been shown to reduce the chance of heart disease. Nuts and some kind of oils also contain this kind of fat. One of the researchers said these fatty acids are also found in brain cells and may protect them from Alzheimer’s.

Researchers at the Rush-Presbyterian-Saint Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, carried out the new study of fats and Alzheimer’s. They published the results in the Archives of Neurology.

The study involved more than eight-hundred people between the ages of sixty-five and ninety-four. None showed any signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers asked them about the foods they ate and followed them for about four years. By the end of the study, one-hundred-thirty-one, or sixteen percent, had developed Alzheimer’s disease.

Victims of the disease lose the ability to take care of themselves. At first, they forget simple things, like where they put something, or a person’s name. They forget more and more as time passes. They do not recognize the faces of family members. Then they forget who they are. Finally, they remember nothing. Victims of Alzheimer’s die from the disease. But it is as if their brains die before their bodies.

In February the researchers published other results from the same study. These showed that the people who ate a lot of animal fat had two times the chance of developing Alzheimer’s than those who ate small amounts.

The researchers said all these findings confirm other studies that link Alzheimer’s disease and foods that increase the level of cholesterol in the blood. But they also said more research must be done to prove that this link exists. Until then, they said, people still have many good reasons to eat less animal fat and more fruits, vegetables and fish.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.