oilyfishLeading members of the medical community have called for greater focus on nutrition within the diagnostic process after a UK opinion poll of people aged 50+ revealed that 86% want more advice about how lifestyle factors such as exercise and nutrition may help those living in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings of the survey identified that despite consuming a normal diet people living with the disease have lower levels of a range of nutrients that are essential for the formation of synapses in the brain. However, just 12% of the people questioned were aware of this nutritional deficiency, despite 61% stating they had a direct link to someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

In a disease area where no new management options have emerged in the past 10 years, and attention is turning to earlier diagnosis, exploring lifestyle factors such as exercise and nutrition can empower patients and carers in the early stages.

Dr David Wilkinson, Consultant in Old Age Psychiatry said, “Increasing evidence suggests that lifestyle changes including nutrition and exercise can have a real impact, allowing patients and carer’s a sense of hope and opportunity, especially during the early stages. However, they need more specific advice on diet, nutrition and exercise and this opinion poll clearly outlines a need for those attending the G8 Dementia summit to focus on the role of nutrition during their discussions”.

Easing the burden on carers is another key topic for debate. Carers and those close to people with Alzheimer’s disease say their biggest challenge when it comes to their loved one's nutritional needs is knowing what foods and nutrients they need to be consuming. As a result, 67% confirmed that they need more advice about what nutrients people with early Alzheimer’s disease need and why.

The call for further education about the role of nutrition is supported by the medical community. A 2013 survey of elderly care specialists discovered that 9 out of 10 (89%) think it is important to educate people with Alzheimer’s disease about a healthy diet, yet only one-third routinely assess diet/nutrition during the diagnostic process. These findings led to the development of a report entitled The importance of nutrition in the management of early Alzheimer’s which outlines further findings from the survey and discusses the role of nutrition in the management of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and recommendations for implementing it further.

An eminent team of neuroscientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA have spent the past 12 years researching the role of nutrients in the synthesis of synapses in the brain, and whether it was possible to slow synaptic dysfunction, an early indication of Alzheimer’s disease, with a specific formulation of nutrients. Two recent clinical peer reviews, have examined the potential for a specific nutrition combination called Fortasyn Connect. They conclude that it may offer great benefit to patients and carers due to its ability to address specific nutritional deficiencies known to be present in patients with early Alzheimer’s disease, with a low risk for side effects. Both reviews conclude that nutritional management options should be explored further as an integral part of everyday management plans.

Fortasyn Connect can be found in Souvenaid, the new nutritional drink for the dietary management of early Alzheimer’s disease. To find out more about nutrition for the management of early Alzheimer’s disease, visit http://www.nutricia.co.uk/souvenaid/