Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Snacking on nuts and seeds 'could keep Alzheimer's at bay'

One nut deserves another -- or something. The study below found nothing about nuts in fact. It found that very elderly people with good serum levels of nutrients were less likely to get Alzheimer's. All it probably proves is that people who are still functioning well in old age are somewhat less likely to get Alzheimers -- which would appear to be something of a tautology

Snacking on nuts could help keep the mind sharp into old age, research suggests. A study has credited vitamin E - found in nuts, seeds and olive oil - with warding off Alzheimer's.

Pensioners with the highest amounts of the 'anti-ageing' vitamin in their blood were around half as likely to develop the devastating disease as those with the least vitamin E in their bodies.

The finding suggests that nuts and oils could provide a cheap and tasty way of keeping the mind healthy as the years advance. Alzheimer's affects some 400,000 Britons and around 500 new cases are diagnosed every day.

The Swedish researchers measured vitamin E in samples of blood taken from 232 men and women. All were aged 80 or older at the start of the study and free of dementia. After six years, 57 had developed Alzheimer's, the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease reports.

However, the disease was around half as common in those boasting the most vitamin E at the start of the study.

Previous research into the subject has produced conflicting results but the researchers believe this could be because it mainly focused on one sub-type of vitamin E, rather than looking at it as a whole.

Lead researcher Dr Francesca Mangialasche, of Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, said: 'Vitamin E is a family of eight natural components, but most studies related to Alzheimer’s disease investigate only one of these components. 'We hypothesised that all the vitamin E family members could be important in protecting against Alzheimer's disease.

'If confirmed, this result has implications for both individuals and society, as 70 percent of all dementia cases in the general population occur in people over 75 years of age, and the study suggests a protective effect of vitamin E against AD in individuals aged 80-plus.'

She added that with previous research linking one particular form of vitamin E found in supplements with premature death, people would be better off getting a mix of the different forms of the compound from their diet. A vegetable, fruit, nut and olive oil-rich Mediterranean diet could be particularly beneficial.

'Our findings need to be confirmed by other studies but they open up the possibility that the balanced presence of different vitamin E forms can have an important neuroprotective effect.'

The Food Standards Agency warns that high doses of the vitamin can be harmful and says that people should be able to get all the need from a balanced diet.


On regional inequality in British lifespans

You'll have seen the headlines yesterday: The National Audit Office report showing that people in poor areas die younger, on average, than people in not poor areas and that the government and NHS has been failing to do something about it. The report is here.

While the basic contention, that poor people die younger than rich people (or people living in poor places die younger than those in rich places), is clearly true, there's a great gaping hole in the methodology used to monitor all of this. It's the same error made in the recent Marmot Review which should be read alongside this NAO report. The error comes in two parts.

1) There is no acknowledgment at all that people migrate over the course of a lifetime. Not everyone does, of course, and yet it's also true that not everyone doesn't. So concentrating on particular local areas (local authorities in this case) will take no account of the way in which, say, someone hale and hearty in their 60s might leave some industrial Midlands town and move to Bournemouth upon retirement. Reducing the life expectancy in that Midlands town by removing someone likely to live long (for life expectancy of someone hale and hearty in their 60s is longer than that of the general population) from the pool we're measuring and similarly increasing it in Bournemouth.

2) No acknowledgement or discussion of the point that while poverty might lead to ill health and shortened lifespans, it is also true that ill health can lead to poverty. Being struck down by a chronic illness during your working years will make you poor: and will ally with point 1) to make it less likely that you will move from a poor area to a rich one.

As I say, I've no doubt at all that a shortened lifespan is yet another indignity that is heaped upon the heads of the poor. But as I constantly try to point out, we have to measure these things (as I've been shouting about for years about the gender pay gap) properly before we can decide what, if anything, we're going to do about them.

Unless we know how much of the poverty is caused by ill health as opposed to the ill health being caused by the poverty we're fumbling around in the dark. And unless we account for the way in which people move around, migration as a result of both health and wealth, we're similarly blind to what is actually causing the inequalities we can see.

We're not, as yet, measuring this properly so we cannot, as yet, decide what to do about it.


No comments: