Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Alzheimer's patients do not benefit from eating fish... but Omega 3 appears to slow deterioration in the early stages

The study which showed benefit was of people "who had a mild memory complaint". Generalizing that to Alzheimer's is a stretch. I have had a problem with certain types of memory (e.g. remembering appointments and anniversaries) all my life and I don't THINK I have Alzheimer's. Note also that the study concerned was of a proprietary product. One wonders how well experimenter expectation effects were excluded and just what the exact analysis of the product was (Were small amounts of caffeine included, for instance?). As it is only a conference report at this stage, such questions are not readily resolved

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements did nothing to slow memory declines in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease, US researchers said on Sunday. The findings from an 18-month, government-backed study suggest taking supplements of docosahexenoic acid, or DHA - an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish - does not arrest Alzheimer's in people who have already developed the mind-robbing disease. 'These trial results do not support the routine use of DHA for patients with Alzheimer's,' Dr Joseph Quinn of Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland, who led the study, said in a statement.

But a six-month company study that looked at people whose memory was slipping just a bit found Martek Biosciences Corp's DHA supplements helped restore some of the mental acuity they had lost. 'The benefit is roughly equivalent to having the learning and memory skills of someone three years younger,' Martek researcher Karin Yurko-Mauro said in a telephone interview.

Both studies, which are being presented at an international Alzheimer's Association meeting in Vienna, Austria, show the difficulty of treating the disease. Taken together, the findings along with other studies suggest treating Alzheimer's must begin early in the disease process, before sticky amyloid plaques begin forming toxic clumps in the brain. 'It may be that ... by the time you have Alzheimer's disease, it is too late,' Dr Ronald Petersen, director of Alzheimer's research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said in a telephone interview.

Plenty of studies in both mice and people had suggested that a diet rich in DHA - an omega-3 fatty acid found in fatty cold-water fish - could dramatically slow Alzheimer's disease, and hopes were high for DHA as a possible new treatment. DHA is naturally found in the body in small amounts, and is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in the brain.

In the Alzheimer's study supported by the National Institute on Aging, Quinn and colleagues compared Martek's DHA supplements to a placebo in 402 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's. Although blood levels of DHA increased, the team saw no change in two widely accepted Alzheimer's tests. But the study did suggest some benefit in people with Alzheimer's who do not have the ApoE4 gene, which raises their Alzheimer's disease risk.

Quinn called the finding 'intriguing' because other trials have shown different response rates based on this gene, and said future studies should look at this.

In the six-month Martek study, researchers looked at the effects of a 900 mg daily dose of DHA on 485 healthy people with an average age of 70 who had a mild memory complaint. People in this study were tested using a computer memory test. At the end of six months, those who took DHA made far fewer mistakes than those in the placebo group. The effect was 'almost double,' Yurko-Mauro said.

Petersen, a former vice chairman of the Alzheimer's Association, said the study was promising, but needs to be confirmed before healthy people start taking DHA supplements. 'The association is not recommending normal elderly people take DHA based on this study,' he said.


Swearing can help reduce pain

Even the most mild-mannered of individuals have been known to utter the odd expletive in moments of intense pain. Now it seems they have the perfect excuse. Swearing helps reduce pain, according to new research.

A study of responses to pain found that people who cursed in response to pain could cope with being hurt for nearly 50 per cent longer than their clean-speaking peers.

When they started their research, experts at Keele University's School of Psychology thought that cursing would lower pain tolerance. But after monitoring the reactions of 64 volunteers, stunned research leader Dr Richard Stephens and colleagues John Atkins and Andrew Kingston found that swearing actually had a beneficial effect. Last night Dr Stephens told how he came up with the idea for the study after blurting out a swear word when he accidentally hit his thumb with a hammer as he built a shed in his garden.

The 64 undergraduates were subjected to a gruelling ice water test to see how the cursing affected their pain tolerance. First they had to submerge their hand in a tub of ice water for as long as possible while repeating a swearword of their choice. Then they repeated the exercise - but using a word they would choose to describe a table. Despite initial expectations, researchers found volunteers could keep their hands in ice for longer when repeating the swear word. On average, the students could put up with the pain for nearly two minutes when swearing. By contrast when they refrained from using expletives they could only endure the ice for one minute and 15 seconds.

Researchers believe swearing has a pain-reducing effect because it triggers the body's natural fight-or-flight response. They suggest that the accelerated heart rates of the volunteers repeating the swearword indicates an increase in aggression, in a classic fight-or-flight response of downplaying being hurt in favour of a more pain-tolerant machismo.

Dr Stephens said it was clear the swearing triggered both an emotional and a physical response. 'We are not sure why swearing works like this, but when it happens it's accompanied by an increase in heart rate,' he said. 'It could be the aggression of swearing, the machismo, makes you more pain resistant.'

While surprised by the results he added: 'It might explain why the centuries-old practice of cursing developed and still persists today.' For those who think that the results may give a green card to turning the air blue, Dr Stephens did, however, have a word of warning. 'If they want to use this pain-lessening effect to their advantage they need to do less casual swearing and only do it when they really need it.'

Rohan Byrt, spokesman for the Casual Swearing Appreciation Society, said he thought the study was the first time swearing's benefits had been proved. He said:'"I've always thought that swearing does have some real therapeutic merit. 'Even for those who consider themselves clean spoken, the odd swear word will just slip out. For me, it's almost a natural instinct, a gut reaction'


No comments: