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1.  The older people, omega-3, and cognitive health (EPOCH) trial design and methodology: A randomised, double-blind, controlled trial investigating the effect of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids on cognitive ageing and wellbeing in cognitively healthy older adults 
Nutrition Journal  2011;10:117.
Some studies have suggested an association between omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LC PUFAs) and better cognitive outcomes in older adults. To date, only two randomised, controlled trials have assessed the effect of n-3 LC PUFA supplementation on cognitive function in older cognitively healthy populations. Of these trials only one found a benefit, in the subgroup carrying the ApoE-ε4 allele. The benefits of n-3 LC PUFA supplementation on cognitive function in older normal populations thus still remain unclear. The main objective of the current study was to provide a comprehensive assessment of the potential of n-3 LC PUFAs to slow cognitive decline in normal elderly people, and included ApoE-ε4 allele carriage as a potential moderating factor. The detailed methodology of the trial is reported herein.
The study was a parallel, 18-month, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled intervention with assessment at baseline and repeated 6-monthly. Participants (N = 391, 53.7% female) aged 65-90 years, English-speaking and with normal cognitive function, were recruited from metropolitan Adelaide, South Australia. Participants in the intervention arm received capsules containing fish-oil at a daily dosage of 1720 mg of docosahexaenoic acid and 600 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid while the placebo arm received the equivalent amount of olive oil in their capsules. The primary outcome is rate of change in cognitive performance, as measured by latent variables for the cognitive constructs (encompassing Reasoning, Working Memory, Short-term Memory, Retrieval Fluency, Inhibition, Simple and Choice-Reaction Time, Perceptual Speed, Odd-man-out Reaction Time, Speed of Memory Scanning, and Psychomotor Speed) and assessed by latent growth curve modeling. Secondary outcomes are change in the Mini-mental State Examination, functional capacity and well-being (including health status, depression, mood, and self-report cognitive functioning), blood pressure, and biomarkers of n-3 LC PUFA status, glucose, lipid metabolism, inflammation, oxidative stress, and DNA damage.
Trial registration
Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Register (ANZCTR): ACTRN12607000278437
PMCID: PMC3210089  PMID: 22011460
2.  A Randomised, Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Trial in Dementia Patients Continuing or Stopping Neuroleptics (The DART-AD Trial)  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(4):e76.
There have been increasing concerns regarding the safety and efficacy of neuroleptics in people with dementia, but there are very few long-term trials to inform clinical practice. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of long-term treatment with neuroleptic agents upon global cognitive decline and neuropsychiatric symptoms in patients with Alzheimer disease.
Methods and Findings
Design: Randomised, blinded, placebo-controlled parallel two-group treatment discontinuation trial.
Setting: Oxfordshire, Newcastle and Gateshead, London and Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Participants: Patients currently prescribed the neuroleptics thioridazine, chlorpromazine, haloperidol trifluoperazine or risperidone for behavioural or psychiatric disturbance in dementia for at least 3 mo.
Interventions: Continue neuroleptic treatment for 12 mo or switch to an identical placebo.
Outcome measures: Primary outcome was total Severe Impairment Battery (SIB) score. Neuropsychiatric symptoms were evaluated with the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI).
Results: 165 patients were randomised (83 to continue treatment and 82 to placebo, i.e., discontinue treatment), of whom 128 (78%) commenced treatment (64 continue/64 placebo). Of those, 26 were lost to follow-up (13 per arm), resulting in 51 patients per arm analysed for the primary outcome. There was no significant difference between the continue treatment and placebo groups in the estimated mean change in SIB scores between baseline and 6 mo; estimated mean difference in deterioration (favouring placebo) −0.4 (95% confidence interval [CI] −6.4 to 5.5), adjusted for baseline value (p = 0.9). For neuropsychiatric symptoms, there was no significant difference between the continue treatment and placebo groups (n = 56 and 53, respectively) in the estimated mean change in NPI scores between baseline and 6 mo; estimated mean difference in deterioration (favouring continue treatment) −2.4 (95% CI −8.2 to 3.5), adjusted for baseline value (p = 0.4). Both results became more pronounced at 12 mo. There was some evidence to suggest that those patients with initial NPI ≥ 15 benefited on neuropsychiatric symptoms from continuing treatment.
For most patients with AD, withdrawal of neuroleptics had no overall detrimental effect on functional and cognitive status. Neuroleptics may have some value in the maintenance treatment of more severe neuropsychiatric symptoms, but this benefit must be weighed against the side effects of therapy.
Trial registration: Cochrane Central Registry of Controlled Trials/National Research Register (#ISRCTN33368770).
In a randomized trial of patients with dementia, Clive Ballard and colleagues show that withdrawal of neuroleptics had no overall detrimental effect, and by some measures improved, functional and cognitive status.
Editors' Summary
The number of people with dementia (currently 25 million worldwide) is expected to increase by 5 million each year. The risk of dementia, including Alzheimer disease, increases sharply with age: Alzheimer's Disease International estimates that 1.4% of people 65–69 have dementia, whereas almost a full quarter of those over the age of 85 years are affected. Almost all older dementia patients will experience, along with the cognitive and functional decline typical of the illness, some neuropsychiatric symptoms. These symptoms can include agitation, aggression, and psychosis, and are often devastating for the older patient and his or her family and caregiver. Managing these symptoms is often a prime concern for health-care providers and families. Neuroleptics (sometimes called antipsychotics) are the class of drugs often used to manage or control neuropsychiatric problems, but there have been questions about their safety and appropriateness. Safety concerns involve risk of stroke, parkinsonism, sedation, edema, and chest infections but also include a worsening of cognitive decline with prolonged use of neuroleptics.
Why Was the Study Done?
Previous studies on the effectiveness and safety of neuroleptics in older people have been short term. Ballard and colleagues wanted to study over a longer period of time the impact of neuroleptic drugs on elderly patients with dementia. Specifically, they wanted to know if being on a neuroleptic was associated with more cognitive decline than coming off the drug. They also wanted to investigate whether discontinuing the drug exacerbated any neuropsychiatric symptoms, Parkinson disease-like symptoms, or other functional, language, and cognition difficulties frequently associated with dementia.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited older patients with Alzheimer disease from across England who had been on neuroleptics for at least three months. They randomised patients to one of two groups: the first group continued taking the same neuroleptic at the same dosage level while the second group was switched to an identical-looking placebo. The researchers assessed the patients' cognitive status and neuropsychiatric symptoms upon their entry into the study. Six and 12 months later the researchers assessed any cognitive decline and the level of neuropsychiatric and other problems that patients were experiencing.
At both 6 and 12 months, the researchers found that there were no differences between the two groups (continued treatment and placebo) in terms of cognitive decline. The placebo group may have had less cognitive decline, but this was not statistically significant. They also found no overall differences between the two groups in the change in the number of neuropsychiatric symptoms over these time periods. Patients with severe neuropsychiatric problems at the outset of the trial did better on continued neuroleptic therapy, but this advantage was not statistically significant. There was a significant decline on the verbal fluency language tests among the patients who continued on their neuroleptic.
What Do these Findings Mean?
The researchers report perhaps the first trial of this duration on continued versus withdrawn neuroleptic treatment among older dementia patients. The findings do not indicate any benefit of continuing neuroleptic therapies in older patients on either cognitive or neuropsychiatric outcomes. The researchers conclude that neuroleptics, with their known safety issues, should not be used as first-line treatment to manage problems such as agitation or aggression. For older dementia patients whose neuropsychiatric symptoms are not remedied by nonpharmaceutical treatments, the researchers advise caution. More studies are urgently needed to find better solutions to help older patients with dementia who have agitation, aggression, and psychosis.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Alzheimer's Disease International is an umbrella organisation of organisations worldwide
The Alzheimer's Research Trust in the UK is a charity funding research to cure or prevent dementias
The US National Institutes of Aging has information on Alzheimer Disease in English and Spanish
Two governmental regulatory agencies—the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in the UK and the Food and Drug Administration in the US—offer information about antipsychotics in people with dementia
PMCID: PMC2276521  PMID: 18384230
3.  Visual evoked potentials and dietary long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in preterm infants. 
The influence of dietary long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCP) supply, and especially of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), on evoked potential maturation, was studied in 58 healthy preterm infants using flash visual evoked potentials (VEPs), flash electroretinography (ERG), and brainstem acoustic evoked potentials (BAEPs) at 52 weeks of postconceptional age. At the same time, the fatty acid composition of red blood cell membranes was examined. The infants were fed on breast milk (n = 12), a preterm formula supplemented with LCP (PF-LCP) (n = 21), or a traditional preterm formula (PF) (n = 25). In the breast milk and PF-LCP groups the morphology and latencies of the waves that reflect the visual projecting system were similar; in the PF group the morphology was quite different and the wave latencies were significantly longer. This could mean that the maturation pattern of VEPs in preterm infants who did not receive LCP was slower. Moreover, a higher level of erythrocyte LCP, especially DHA, was found in breast milk and PF-LCP groups compared with the PF group. ERG and BAEP recordings were the same in all three groups. These results suggest that a well balanced LCP supplement in preterm formulas can positively influence the maturation of visual evoked potentials in preterm infants when breast milk is not available.
PMCID: PMC1061173  PMID: 8949693
4.  Feasibility of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation as an adjunct therapy for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2013;14:107.
There is evidence to support the use of supplementation with long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCn-3PUFA) from oily fish or fish oil for the treatment of various inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive, terminal disease characterized by persistent airflow limitation, lung and systemic inflammation. To date, one randomized controlled trial has been published that assessed the efficacy of LCn-3PUFA in people with this condition. The aim of this article is to discuss the feasibility of conducting a trial to evaluate fish oil supplementation as adjunct therapy in people with COPD.
A 16-week parallel, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled dietary supplementation trial will be evaluated. Forty participants meeting spirometric and clinical criteria for COPD will be recruited from metropolitan Adelaide, South Australia. Participants will be randomized by minimization, based on a score derived from the modified Medical Research Council Scale for breathlessness, to receive 6 g/day of fish oil (approximately 3.6 g/day of LCn-3PUFA), or placebo (6 g/day of corn oil) capsules. Feasibility outcomes (recruitment, retention, supplement adherence, and time lost to exacerbation) and scientific outcomes (effect size and estimates of variance for inflammatory biomarkers, incorporation of LCn-3PUFA into erythrocytes, small airways function, dyspnea and functional exercise capacity) will be assessed pre- and post-intervention. Key feasibility criteria include recruitment of 40 participants in 52 weeks, 75% participant retention rate, 2% increase in the proportion of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in erythrocytes, and a positive moderate effect size in at least three efficacy measures.
There are a number of challenges in designing supplementation intervention studies with this population. These include the lack of prior data from which to select appropriate primary outcomes or to estimate effect sizes, and the feasibility of continuous supplementation in a population characterized by multiple comorbidities and a high likelihood of exacerbations, potentially requiring hospitalization or change in medication. Upon completion of this protocol, feasibility outcomes will guide the direction of future multicentre dietary interventions in this population.
Trial registration
Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Register (ANZCTR): ACTRN12612000158864
PMCID: PMC3748832  PMID: 23782589
5.  Computerized Cognitive Training in Cognitively Healthy Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Effect Modifiers 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(11):e1001756.
Michael Valenzuela and colleagues systematically review and meta-analyze the evidence that computerized cognitive training improves cognitive skills in older adults with normal cognition.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
New effective interventions to attenuate age-related cognitive decline are a global priority. Computerized cognitive training (CCT) is believed to be safe and can be inexpensive, but neither its efficacy in enhancing cognitive performance in healthy older adults nor the impact of design factors on such efficacy has been systematically analyzed. Our aim therefore was to quantitatively assess whether CCT programs can enhance cognition in healthy older adults, discriminate responsive from nonresponsive cognitive domains, and identify the most salient design factors.
Methods and Findings
We systematically searched Medline, Embase, and PsycINFO for relevant studies from the databases' inception to 9 July 2014. Eligible studies were randomized controlled trials investigating the effects of ≥4 h of CCT on performance in neuropsychological tests in older adults without dementia or other cognitive impairment. Fifty-two studies encompassing 4,885 participants were eligible. Intervention designs varied considerably, but after removal of one outlier, heterogeneity across studies was small (I2 = 29.92%). There was no systematic evidence of publication bias. The overall effect size (Hedges' g, random effects model) for CCT versus control was small and statistically significant, g = 0.22 (95% CI 0.15 to 0.29). Small to moderate effect sizes were found for nonverbal memory, g = 0.24 (95% CI 0.09 to 0.38); verbal memory, g = 0.08 (95% CI 0.01 to 0.15); working memory (WM), g = 0.22 (95% CI 0.09 to 0.35); processing speed, g = 0.31 (95% CI 0.11 to 0.50); and visuospatial skills, g = 0.30 (95% CI 0.07 to 0.54). No significant effects were found for executive functions and attention. Moderator analyses revealed that home-based administration was ineffective compared to group-based training, and that more than three training sessions per week was ineffective versus three or fewer. There was no evidence for the effectiveness of WM training, and only weak evidence for sessions less than 30 min. These results are limited to healthy older adults, and do not address the durability of training effects.
CCT is modestly effective at improving cognitive performance in healthy older adults, but efficacy varies across cognitive domains and is largely determined by design choices. Unsupervised at-home training and training more than three times per week are specifically ineffective. Further research is required to enhance efficacy of the intervention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
As we get older, we notice many bodily changes. Our hair goes grey, we develop new aches and pains, and getting out of bed in the morning takes longer than it did when we were young. Our brain may also show signs of aging. It may take us longer to learn new information, we may lose our keys more frequently, and we may forget people's names. Cognitive decline—developing worsened thinking, language, memory, understanding, and judgment—can be a normal part of aging, but it can also be an early sign of dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by a severe, irreversible decline in cognitive functions. We know that age-related physical decline can be attenuated by keeping physically active; similarly, engaging in activities that stimulate the brain throughout life is thought to enhance cognition in later life and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline and dementia. Thus, having an active social life and doing challenging activities that stimulate both the brain and the body may help to stave off cognitive decline.
Why Was This Study Done?
“Brain training” may be another way of keeping mentally fit. The sale of computerized cognitive training (CCT) packages, which provide standardized, cognitively challenging tasks designed to “exercise” various cognitive functions, is a lucrative and expanding business. But does CCT work? Given the rising global incidence of dementia, effective interventions that attenuate age-related cognitive decline are urgently needed. However, the impact of CCT on cognitive performance in older adults is unclear, and little is known about what makes a good CCT package. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, the researchers assess whether CCT programs improve cognitive test performance in cognitively healthy older adults and identify the aspects of cognition (cognitive domains) that are responsive to CCT, and the CCT design features that are most important in improving cognitive performance. A systematic review uses pre-defined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; meta-analysis uses statistical methods to combine the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 51 trials that investigated the effects of more than four hours of CCT on nearly 5,000 cognitively healthy older adults by measuring several cognitive functions before and after CCT. Meta-analysis of these studies indicated that the overall effect size for CCT (compared to control individuals who did not participate in CCT) was small but statistically significant. An effect size quantifies the difference between two groups; a statistically significant result is a result that is unlikely to have occurred by chance. So, the meta-analysis suggests that CCT slightly increased overall cognitive function. Notably, CCT also had small to moderate significant effects on individual cognitive functions. For example, some CCT slightly improved nonverbal memory (the ability to remember visual images) and working memory (the ability to remember recent events; short-term memory). However, CCT had no significant effect on executive functions (cognitive processes involved in planning and judgment) or attention (selective concentration on one aspect of the environment). The design of CCT used in the different studies varied considerably, and “moderator” analyses revealed that home-based CCT was not effective, whereas center-based CCT was effective, and that training sessions undertaken more than three times a week were not effective. There was also some weak evidence suggesting that CCT sessions lasting less than 30 minutes may be ineffective. Finally, there was no evidence for the effectiveness of working memory training by itself (for example, programs that ask individuals to recall series of letters).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that CCT produces small improvements in cognitive performance in cognitively healthy older adults but that the efficacy of CCT varies across cognitive domains and is largely determined by design aspects of CCT. The most important result was that “do-it-yourself” CCT at home did not produce improvements. Rather, the small improvements seen were in individuals supervised by a trainer in a center and undergoing sessions 1–3 times a week. Because only cognitively healthy older adults were enrolled in the studies considered in this systematic review and meta-analysis, these findings do not necessarily apply to cognitively impaired individuals. Moreover, because all the included studies measured cognitive function immediately after CCT, these findings provide no information about the durability of the effects of CCT or about how the effects of CCT on cognitive function translate into real-life outcomes for individuals such as independence and the long-term risk of dementia. The researchers call, therefore, for additional research into CCT, an intervention that might help to attenuate age-related cognitive decline and improve the quality of life for older individuals.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Druin Burch
The US National Institute on Aging provides information for patients and carers about age-related forgetfulness, about memory and cognitive health, and about dementia (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides information about dementia and about memory loss
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about memory, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC4236015  PMID: 25405755
6.  Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation and Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer Disease 
Jama  2010;304(17):1903-1911.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the most abundant long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid in the brain. Epidemiological studies suggest that consumption of DHA is associated with a reduced incidence of Alzheimer disease. Animal studies demonstrate that oral intake of DHA reduces Alzheimer-like brain pathology.
To determine if supplementation with DHA slows cognitive and functional decline in individuals with Alzheimer disease.
Design, Setting, and Patients
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of DHA supplementation in individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer disease (Mini-Mental State Examination scores, 14–26) was conducted between November 2007 and May 2009 at 51 US clinical research sites of the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study.
Participants were randomly assigned to algal DHA at a dose of 2 g/d or to identical placebo (60% were assigned to DHA and 40% were assigned to placebo). Duration of treatment was 18 months.
Main Outcome Measures
Change in the cognitive subscale of the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS-cog) and change in the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) sum of boxes. Rate of brain atrophy was also determined by volumetric magnetic resonance imaging in a subsample of participants (n = 102).
A total of 402 individuals were randomized and a total of 295 participants completed the trial while taking study medication (DHA: 171; placebo: 124). Supplementation with DHA had no beneficial effect on rate of change on ADAS-cog score, which increased by a mean of 7.98 points (95% confidence interval [CI], 6.51–9.45 points) for the DHA group during 18 months vs 8.27 points (95% CI, 6.72–9.82 points) for the placebo group (linear mixed-effects model: P = .41). The CDR sum of boxes score increased by 2.87 points (95% CI, 2.44–3.30 points) for the DHA group during 18 months compared with 2.93 points (95% CI, 2.44–3.42 points) for the placebo group (linear mixed-effects model: P = .68). In the subpopulation of participants (DHA: 53; placebo: 49), the rate of brain atrophy was not affected by treatment with DHA. Individuals in the DHA group had a mean decline in total brain volume of 24.7 cm3 (95% CI, 21.4–28.0 cm3) during 18 months and a 1.32% (95% CI, 1.14%–1.50%) volume decline per year compared with 24.0 cm3 (95% CI, 20–28 cm3) for the placebo group during 18 months and a 1.29% (95% CI, 1.07%–1.51%) volume decline per year (P = .79).
Supplementation with DHA compared with placebo did not slow the rate of cognitive and functional decline in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer disease.
PMCID: PMC3259852  PMID: 21045096
7.  Effects of supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on cognitive performance and cardiometabolic risk markers in healthy 51 to 72 years old subjects: a randomized controlled cross-over study 
Nutrition Journal  2012;11:99.
Higher plasma n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) have been associated with a lower risk of age related cognitive decline, and to beneficially affect cardiometabolic risk factors. A relation exists between metabolic disorders such as diabetes type 2 and cognitive decline. Results regarding the potential effects of n-3 PUFA on risk factors in healthy subjects are divergent, and studies regarding the possible relation between cardiometabolic parameters and cognitive performance are scarce. The objective was to evaluate the effects of five weeks intake of long chain n-3 PUFA on cognitive performance in healthy individuals, and to exploit the possible relation between outcomes in cognitive tests to cardiometabolic risk parameters.
Fish oil n-3 PUFA (3g daily) were consumed during 5weeks separated by a 5 week washout period in a cross-over placebo controlled study, including 40 healthy middle aged to elderly subjects. Cognitive performance was determined by tests measuring working memory (WM) and selective attention.
Supplementation with n-3 PUFA resulted in better performance in the WM-test compared with placebo (p < 0.05). In contrast to placebo, n-3 PUFA lowered plasma triacylglycerides (P < 0.05) and systolic blood pressure (p < 0.0001). Systolic blood pressure (p < 0.05), f-glucose (p = 0.05), and s-TNF-α (p = 0.05), were inversely related to the performance in cognitive tests.
Intake of n-3 PUFA improved cognitive performance in healthy subjects after five weeks compared with placebo. In addition, inverse relations were obtained between cardiometabolic risk factors and cognitive performance, indicating a potential of dietary prevention strategies to delay onset of metabolic disorders and associated cognitive decline.
PMCID: PMC3564898  PMID: 23173831
Omega-3 PUFA; DHA; EPA; Fish oil; Dietary prevention; Cognitive performance; Working memory; Metabolic disorders; Ageing
8.  Air Pollution and the Microvasculature: A Cross-Sectional Assessment of In Vivo Retinal Images in the Population-Based Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(11):e1000372.
Sara Adar and colleagues show that residing in locations with higher air pollution concentrations and experiencing daily increases in air pollution are associated with narrower retinal arteriolar diameters in older individuals, thus providing a link between air pollution and cardiovascular disease.
Long- and short-term exposures to air pollution, especially fine particulate matter (PM2.5), have been linked to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. One hypothesized mechanism for these associations involves microvascular effects. Retinal photography provides a novel, in vivo approach to examine the association of air pollution with changes in the human microvasculature.
Methods and Findings
Chronic and acute associations between residential air pollution concentrations and retinal vessel diameters, expressed as central retinal arteriolar equivalents (CRAE) and central retinal venular equivalents (CRVE), were examined using digital retinal images taken in Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) participants between 2002 and 2003. Study participants (46 to 87 years of age) were without clinical cardiovascular disease at the baseline examination (2000–2002). Long-term outdoor concentrations of PM2.5 were estimated at each participant's home for the 2 years preceding the clinical exam using a spatio-temporal model. Short-term concentrations were assigned using outdoor measurements on the day preceding the clinical exam. Residential proximity to roadways was also used as an indicator of long-term traffic exposures. All associations were examined using linear regression models adjusted for subject-specific age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, income, smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity, body mass index, family history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes status, serum cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, emphysema, C-reactive protein, medication use, and fellow vessel diameter. Short-term associations were further controlled for weather and seasonality. Among the 4,607 participants with complete data, CRAE were found to be narrower among persons residing in regions with increased long- and short-term levels of PM2.5. These relationships were observed in a joint exposure model with −0.8 µm (95% confidence interval [CI] −1.1 to −0.5) and −0.4 µm (95% CI −0.8 to 0.1) decreases in CRAE per interquartile increases in long- (3 µg/m3) and short-term (9 µg/m3) PM2.5 levels, respectively. These reductions in CRAE are equivalent to 7- and 3-year increases in age in the same cohort. Similarly, living near a major road was also associated with a −0.7 µm decrease (95% CI −1.4 to 0.1) in CRAE. Although the chronic association with CRAE was largely influenced by differences in exposure between cities, this relationship was generally robust to control for city-level covariates and no significant differences were observed between cities. Wider CRVE were associated with living in areas of higher PM2.5 concentrations, but these findings were less robust and not supported by the presence of consistent acute associations with PM2.5.
Residing in regions with higher air pollution concentrations and experiencing daily increases in air pollution were each associated with narrower retinal arteriolar diameters in older individuals. These findings support the hypothesis that important vascular phenomena are associated with small increases in short-term or long-term air pollution exposures, even at current exposure levels, and further corroborate reported associations between air pollution and the development and exacerbation of clinical cardiovascular disease.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Cardiovascular disease (CVD)—disease that affects the heart and/or the blood vessels—is a common cause of illness and death among adults in developed countries. In the United States, for example, the leading cause of death is coronary heart disease, a CVD in which narrowing of the heart's arteries by atherosclerotic plaques (fatty deposits that build up with age) slows the blood supply to the heart and may eventually cause a heart attack (myocardial infarction). Other types of CVD include stroke (in which atherosclerotic plaques interrupt the brain's blood supply) and peripheral arterial disease (in which the blood supply to the limbs is blocked). Smoking, high blood pressure, high blood levels of cholesterol (a type of fat), having diabetes, being overweight, and being physically inactive all increase a person's risk of developing CVD. Treatments for CVD include lifestyle changes and taking drugs that lower blood pressure or blood cholesterol levels.
Why Was This Study Done?
Another risk factor for CVD is exposure to long-term and/or short-term air pollution. Fine particle pollution or PM2.5 is particularly strongly associated with an increased risk of CVD. PM2.5—particulate matter 2.5 µm in diameter or 1/30th the diameter of a human hair—is mainly produced by motor vehicles, power plants, and other combustion sources. Why PM2.5 increases CVD risk is not clear but one possibility is that it alters the body's microvasculature (fine blood vessels known as capillaries, arterioles, and venules), thereby impairing the blood flow through the heart and brain. In this study, the researchers use noninvasive digital retinal photography to investigate whether there is an association between air pollution and changes in the human microvasculature. The retina—a light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye that converts images into electrical messages and sends them to the brain—has a dense microvasculature. Retinal photography is used to check the retinal microvasculature for signs of potentially blinding eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy. Previous studies have found that narrower than normal retinal arterioles and wider than normal retinal venules are associated with CVD.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used digital retinal photography to measure the diameters of retinal blood vessels in the participants of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). This study is investigating CVD progression in people aged 45–84 years of various ethnic backgrounds who had no CVD symptoms when they enrolled in the study in 2000–2002. The researchers modeled the long-term outdoor concentration of PM2.5 at each participant's house for the 2-year period preceding the retinal examination (which was done between 2002 and 2003) using data on PM2.5 levels collected by regulatory monitoring stations as well as study-specific air samples collected outside of the homes and in the communities of study participants. Outdoor PM2.5 measurements taken the day before the examination provided short-term PM2.5 levels. Among the 4,607 MESA participants who had complete data, retinal arteriolar diameters were narrowed among those who lived in regions with increased long- and short-term PM2.5 levels. Specifically, an increase in long-term PM2.5 concentrations of 3 µg/m3 was associated with a 0.8 µm decrease in arteriolar diameter, a reduction equivalent to that seen for a 7-year increase in age in this group of people. Living near a major road, another indicator of long-term exposure to PM2.5 pollution, was also associated with narrowed arterioles. Finally, increased retinal venular diameters were weakly associated with long-term high PM2.5 concentrations.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that living in areas with long-term air pollution or being exposed to short-term air pollution is associated with narrowing of the retinal arterioles in older individuals. They also show that widening of retinal venules is associated with long-term (but not short-term) PM2.5 pollution. Together, these findings support the hypothesis that long- and short-term air pollution increases CVD risk through effects on the microvasculature. However, they do not prove that PM2.5 is the constituent of air pollution that drives microvascular changes—these findings could reflect the toxicity of another pollutant or the pollution mixture as a whole. Importantly, these findings show that microvascular changes can occur at the PM2.5 levels that commonly occur in developed countries, which are well below those seen in developing countries. Worryingly, they also suggest that the deleterious cardiovascular effects of air pollution could occur at levels below existing regulatory standards.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000372.
The American Heart Association provides information for patients and caregivers on all aspects of cardiovascular disease (in several languages), including information on air pollution, heart disease, and stroke
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information on heart disease and on stroke
Information is available from the British Heart Foundation on cardiovascular disease
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information for patients and caregivers about cardiovascular disease
MedlinePlus provides links to other sources of information on heart disease and on vascular disease (in English and Spanish)
The AIRNow site provides information about US air quality and about air pollution and health
The Air Quality Archive has up-to-date information about air pollution in the UK and information about the health effects of air pollution
The US Environmental Protection Agency has information on PM2.5
The following Web sites contain information available on the MESA and MESA Air studies
PMCID: PMC2994677  PMID: 21152417
9.  Omega-3 Fatty Acids from Fish Oil Lower Anxiety, Improve Cognitive Functions and Reduce Spontaneous Locomotor Activity in a Non-Human Primate 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20491.
Omega-3 (ω3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are major components of brain cells membranes. ω3 PUFA-deficient rodents exhibit severe cognitive impairments (learning, memory) that have been linked to alteration of brain glucose utilization or to changes in neurotransmission processes. ω3 PUFA supplementation has been shown to lower anxiety and to improve several cognitive parameters in rodents, while very few data are available in primates. In humans, little is known about the association between anxiety and ω3 fatty acids supplementation and data are divergent about their impact on cognitive functions. Therefore, the development of nutritional studies in non-human primates is needed to disclose whether a long-term supplementation with long-chain ω3 PUFA has an impact on behavioural and cognitive parameters, differently or not from rodents. We address the hypothesis that ω3 PUFA supplementation could lower anxiety and improve cognitive performances of the Grey Mouse Lemur (Microcebus murinus), a nocturnal Malagasy prosimian primate. Adult male mouse lemurs were fed for 5 months on a control diet or on a diet supplemented with long-chain ω3 PUFA (n = 6 per group). Behavioural, cognitive and motor performances were measured using an open field test to evaluate anxiety, a circular platform test to evaluate reference spatial memory, a spontaneous locomotor activity monitoring and a sensory-motor test. ω3-supplemented animals exhibited lower anxiety level compared to control animals, what was accompanied by better performances in a reference spatial memory task (80% of successful trials vs 35% in controls, p<0.05), while the spontaneous locomotor activity was reduced by 31% in ω3-supplemented animals (p<0.001), a parameter that can be linked with lowered anxiety. The long-term dietary ω3 PUFA supplementation positively impacts on anxiety and cognitive performances in the adult mouse lemur. The supplementation of human food with ω3 fatty acids may represent a valuable dietary strategy to improve behavioural and cognitive functions.
PMCID: PMC3110190  PMID: 21666750
10.  The Role for Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acids Supplementation in Older Adults 
Nutrients  2014;6(10):4058-4072.
Optimal nutrition is one of the most important determinants of healthier ageing, reducing the risk of disability, maintaining mental and physical functions, and thus preserving and ensuring a better quality of life. Dietary intake and nutrient absorption decline with age, thus increasing the risk of malnutrition, morbidity and mortality. Specific nutrients, particularly long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), might have the potential of preventing and reducing co-morbidities in older adults. Omega-3 PUFAs are able to modulate inflammation, hyperlipidemia, platelet aggregation, and hypertension. Different mechanisms contribute to these effects, including conditioning cell membrane function and composition, eicosanoid production, and gene expression. The present review analyzes the influence of omega-3 PUFAs status and intake on brain function, cardiovascular system, immune function, muscle performance and bone health in older adults. Omega-3 FAs may have substantial benefits in reducing the risk of cognitive decline in older people. The available data encourage higher intakes of omega-3 PUFAs in the diet or via specific supplements. More studies are needed to confirm the role of omega-3 FAs in maintaining bone health and preventing the loss of muscle mass and function associated with ageing. In summary, omega-3 PUFAs are now identified as potential key nutrients, safe and effective in the treatment and prevention of several negative consequences of ageing.
PMCID: PMC4210907  PMID: 25285409
omega-3 fatty acids; eicosapentaenoic acid; docosapentaenoic acid; docosahexaenoic acid; older adults
11.  Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acid Concentration and Incident Coronary Heart Disease in Men and Women: The EPIC-Norfolk Prospective Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001255.
Kay-Tee Khaw and colleagues analyze data from a prospective cohort study and show associations between plasma concentrations of saturated phospholipid fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease, and an inverse association between omega-6 polyunsaturated phospholipid fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease.
The lack of association found in several cohort studies between dietary saturated fat and coronary heart disease (CHD) risk has renewed debate over the link between dietary fats and CHD.
Methods and Findings
We assessed the relationship between plasma phospholipid fatty acid (PFA) concentration and incident CHD using a nested case control design within a prospective study (EPIC-Norfolk) of 25,639 individuals aged 40–79 years examined in 1993–1997 and followed up to 2009. Plasma PFA concentrations were measured by gas chromatography in baseline samples retrieved from frozen storage. In 2,424 men and women with incident CHD compared with 4,930 controls alive and free of cardiovascular disease, mean follow-up 13 years, saturated PFA (14:0, 16:0,18:0) plasma concentrations were significantly associated with increased CHD risk (odds ratio [OR] 1.75, 95% CI 1.27–2.41, p<0.0001), in top compared to bottom quartiles (Q), and omega-6 polyunsaturated PFA concentrations were inversely related (OR 0.77, 0.60–0.99, p<0.05) after adjusting for age, sex, body mass index, blood pressure, smoking, alcohol intake, plasma vitamin C, social class, education, and other PFAs. Monounsaturated PFA, omega-3 PFA, and trans PFA concentrations were not significantly associated with CHD. Odd chain PFA (15:0, 17:0) concentrations were significantly inversely associated with CHD (OR 0.73, 0.59–0.91, p<0.001, Q4 versus Q1). Within families of saturated PFA or polyunsaturated PFA, significantly heterogeneous relationships with CHD were observed for individual fatty acids.
In this study, plasma concentrations of even chain saturated PFA were found to be positively and omega-6 polyunsaturated PFA inversely related to subsequent coronary heart disease risk. These findings are consistent with accumulating evidence suggesting a protective role of omega-6 fats substituting for saturated fats for CHD prevention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a condition caused by a build-up of fatty deposits on the inner walls of the blood vessels that supply the heart, causing the affected person to experience pain, usually on exertion (angina). A complete occlusion of the vessel by deposits causes a heart attack (myocardial infarction). Lifestyle factors, such as diet (particularly one high in fat), contribute to causing CHD. There are different types of fat, some of which are thought to increase risk of CHD, such as saturated fat, typically found in meat and dairy foods. However, others, such as unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats) found in foods such as vegetable oils, fish, and nuts, may actually help prevent this condition.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although there have been many studies investigating the role of different types of dietary fat in coronary heart disease, it is still not clear whether coronary heart disease can be prevented by changing the type of dietary fat consumed from saturated to unsaturated fats or by lowering all types of dietary fat. Furthermore, many of these studies have relied on participants recalling their dietary intake in questionnaires, which is an unreliable method for different fats. So in this study, the researchers used an established UK cohort to measure the levels of different types of fatty acids in blood to investigate whether a diet high in saturated fatty acids and low in unsaturated fatty acids increases CHD risk.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a selection of 10,000 participants (all men and women aged 40–79 years) from the prospective European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC)-Norfolk cohort. Blood samples from the selected participants taken at the start of the study in 1993–1997 were analyzed to determine levels of specific fatty acids. Participants were followed up till 2011. The researchers identified 2,424 participants who were subsequently diagnosed with CHD using death certificates and hospital discharge data and matched these with 4,930 controls who were still alive and free of known coronary disease. The researchers grouped the type of blood fatty acids identified in the blood samples into six families (even chain saturated fatty acid, odd chain saturated fatty acid, omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, monounsaturated fatty acid, and trans-fatty acid), which represented saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Using statistical methods, the researchers then compared the risks of developing CHD between cases and controls by the concentration of fatty acid families after adjusting for age and sex and other factors, such as body mass index, physical activity, and smoking. Using these methods, the researchers found that there was no overall significant relationship between total blood fatty acid concentration and CHD but there was a positive association with increasing blood saturated fatty acid concentration after adjusting for other fatty acid concentrations, with an odds ratio of 1.83 comparing higher versus lower concentrations. This risk was attenuated after adjusting for cholesterol levels, indicating that much of the association between saturated fatty acid and CHD is likely to be mediated through blood cholesterol levels. In contrast, blood omega-6 poly-unsaturated fatty acid concentrations were associated with lower CHD risk. Blood monounsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids, and trans-fatty acids were not consistently associated with CHD risk. The authors also noted that within families of fatty acids, individual fatty acids related differently to CHD risk.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that plasma concentrations of saturated fatty acids are associated with increased risk of CHD and that concentrations of omega-6 poly-unsaturated fatty acids are associated with decreased risk of CHD. These findings are consistent with other studies and with current dietary advice for preventing CHD, which encourages substituting foods high in saturated fat with n-6 polyunsaturated fats. The results also suggest that different fatty acids may relate differently to CHD risk and that the overall balance between different fatty acids is important. However, there are limitations to this study, such as that factors other than diet (genetic differences in metabolism, for example) may cause changes to blood fatty acid levels so a major question is to identify what factors influence blood fatty acid concentrations. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that individual fatty acids play a role in increasing or decreasing risks of CHD.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information about the EPIC-Norfolk study is available
The American Heart Foundation provides patient-friendly information about different dietary fats as does Medline
The British Heart Foundation also provides patient-friendly information on heart conditions
PMCID: PMC3389034  PMID: 22802735
12.  Comparison of two modes of vitamin B12 supplementation on neuroconduction and cognitive function among older people living in Santiago, Chile: a cluster randomized controlled trial. a study protocol [ISRCTN 02694183] 
Nutrition Journal  2011;10:100.
Older people have a high risk of vitamin B12 deficiency; this can lead to varying degrees of cognitive and neurological impairment. CBL deficiency may present as macrocytic anemia, subacute combined degeneration of the spinal cord, or as neuropathy, but is often asymptomatic in older people. Less is known about subclinical vitamin B12 deficiency and concurrent neuroconduction and cognitive impairment. A Programme of Complementary Feeding for the Older Population (PACAM) in Chile delivers 2 complementary fortified foods that provide approximately 1.4 μg/day of vitamin B12 (2.4 μg/day elderly RDA). The aim of the present study is to assess whether supplementation with vitamin B12 will improve neuroconduction and cognitive function in older people who have biochemical evidence of vitamin B12 insufficiency in the absence of clinical deficiency.
We designed a cluster double-blind placebo-controlled trial involving community dwelling people aged 70-79 living in Santiago, Chile. We randomized 15 clusters (health centers) involving 300 people (20 per cluster). Each cluster will be randomly assigned to one of three arms: a) a 1 mg vitamin B12 pill taken daily and a routine PACAM food; b) a placebo pill and the milk-PACAM food fortified to provide 1 mg of vitamin B12; c) the routine PACAM food and a placebo pill.
The study has been designed as an 18 month follow up period. The primary outcomes assessed at baseline, 4, 9 and 18 months will be: serum levels of vitamin B12, neuroconduction and cognitive function.
In view of the high prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency in later life, the present study has potential public health interest because since it will measure the impact of the existing program of complementary feeding as compared to two options that provide higher vitamin B12 intakes that might potentially may contribute in preserving neurophysiologic and cognitive function and thus improve quality of life for older people in Chile.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3195703  PMID: 21952034
cobalamin; vitamin B12; cyanocobalamin; elderly; neurophysiology; cognitive disorders; nerve conduction; cluster randomized controlled trial; public health; Chile
13.  Remodeling of Retinal Fatty Acids in an Animal Model of Diabetes 
Diabetes  2009;59(1):219-227.
The results of the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial/Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications cohort study revealed a strong association between dyslipidemia and the development of diabetic retinopathy. However, there are no experimental data on retinal fatty acid metabolism in diabetes. This study determined retinal-specific fatty acid metabolism in control and diabetic animals.
Tissue gene and protein expression profiles were determined by quantitative RT-PCR and Western blot in control and streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats at 3–6 weeks of diabetes. Fatty acid profiles were assessed by reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography, and phospholipid analysis was performed by nano-electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry.
We found a dramatic difference between retinal and liver elongase and desaturase profiles with high elongase and low desaturase gene expression in the retina compared with liver. Elovl4, an elongase expressed in the retina but not in the liver, showed the greatest expression level among retinal elongases, followed by Elovl2, Elovl1, and Elovl6. Importantly, early-stage diabetes induced a marked decrease in retinal expression levels of Elovl4, Elovl2, and Elovl6. Diabetes-induced downregulation of retinal elongases translated into a significant decrease in total retinal docosahexaenoic acid, as well as decreased incorporation of very-long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), particularly 32:6n3, into retinal phosphatidylcholine. This decrease in n3 PUFAs was coupled with inflammatory status in diabetic retina, reflected by an increase in gene expression of proinflammatory markers interleukin-6, vascular endothelial growth factor, and intercellular adhesion molecule-1.
This is the first comprehensive study demonstrating diabetes-induced changes in retinal fatty acid metabolism. Normalization of retinal fatty acid levels by dietary means or/and modulating expression of elongases could represent a potential therapeutic target for diabetes-induced retinal inflammation.
PMCID: PMC2797925  PMID: 19875612
14.  Cholinesterase Inhibitors in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Systematic Review of Randomised Trials 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(11):e338.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) refers to a transitional zone between normal ageing and dementia. Despite the uncertainty regarding the definition of MCI as a clinical entity, clinical trials have been conducted in the attempt to study the role of cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEIs) currently approved for symptomatic treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer disease (AD), in preventing progression from MCI to AD. The objective of this review is to assess the effects of ChEIs (donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine) in delaying the conversion from MCI to Alzheimer disease or dementia.
Methods and Findings
The terms “donepezil”, “rivastigmine”, “galantamine”, and “mild cognitive impairment” and their variants, synonyms, and acronyms were used as search terms in four electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane, PsycINFO) and three registers: the Cochrane Collaboration Trial Register, Current Controlled Trials, and Published and unpublished studies were included if they were randomized clinical trials published (or described) in English and conducted among persons who had received a diagnosis of MCI and/or abnormal memory function documented by a neuropsychological assessment. A standardized data extraction form was used. The reporting quality was assessed using the Jadad scale. Three published and five unpublished trials met the inclusion criteria (three on donepezil, two on rivastigmine, and three on galantamine). Enrolment criteria differed among the trials, so the study populations were not homogeneous. The duration of the trials ranged from 24 wk to 3 y. No significant differences emerged in the probability of conversion from MCI to AD or dementia between the treated groups and the placebo groups. The rate of conversion ranged from 13% (over 2 y) to 25% (over 3 y) among treated patients, and from 18% (over 2 y) to 28% (over 3 y) among those in the placebo groups. Only for two studies was it possible to derive point estimates of the relative risk of conversion: 0.85 (95% confidence interval 0.64–1.12), and 0.84 (0.57–1.25). Statistically significant differences emerged for three secondary end points. However, when adjusting for multiple comparisons, only one difference remained significant (i.e., the rate of atrophy in the whole brain).
The use of ChEIs in MCI was not associated with any delay in the onset of AD or dementia. Moreover, the safety profile showed that the risks associated with ChEIs are not negligible. The uncertainty regarding MCI as a clinical entity raises the question as to the scientific validity of these trials.
A systematic review of trials of cholinesterase inhibitors for preventing transition of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to dementia, conducted by Roberto Raschetti and colleagues, found no difference between treatment and control groups and concluded that uncertainty regarding the definition of MCI casts doubts on the validity of such trials.
Editors' Summary
Worldwide, more than 24 million people have dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by an irreversible decline in memory, problem solving, communication, and other “cognitive” functions. The commonest form of dementia is Alzheimer disease (AD). The risk of developing AD increases with age—AD is rare in people younger than 65 but about half of people over 85 years old have it. The earliest symptom of AD is usually difficulty in remembering new information. As the disease progresses, patients may become confused and have problems expressing themselves. Their behavior and personality can also change. In advanced AD, patients need help with daily activities like dressing and eating, and eventually lose their ability to recognize relatives and to communicate. There is no cure for AD but a class of drugs called “cholinesterase inhibitors” can sometimes temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms. Three cholinesterase inhibitors—donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine—are currently approved for use in mild-to-moderate AD.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some experts have questioned the efficacy of cholinesterase inhibitors in AD, but other experts and patient support groups have called for these drugs to be given to patients with a condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) as well as to those with mild AD. People with MCI have memory problems that are more severe than those normally seen in people of their age but no other symptoms of dementia. They are thought to have an increased risk of developing AD, but it is not known whether everyone with MCI eventually develops AD, and there is no standardized way to diagnose MCI. Despite these uncertainties, several clinical trials have investigated whether cholinesterase inhibitors prevent progression from MCI to AD. In this study, the researchers have assessed whether the results of these trials provide any evidence that cholinesterase inhibitors can prevent MCI progressing to AD.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a systematic review of the medical literature to find trials that had addressed this issue, which met criteria that they had defined clearly in advance of their search. They identified three published and five unpublished randomized controlled trials (studies in which patients randomly receive the test drug or an inactive placebo) that investigated the effect of cholinesterase inhibitors on the progression of MCI. The researchers obtained the results of six of these trials—four examined the effect of cholinesterase inhibitors on the conversion of MCI to clinically diagnosed AD or dementia (the primary end point); all six examined the effect of the drugs on several secondary end points (for example, individual aspects of cognitive function). None of the drugs produced a statistically significant difference (a difference that is unlikely to have happened by chance) in the probability of progression from MCI to AD. The only statistically significant secondary end point after adjustment for multiple comparisons (when many outcomes are considered, false positive results can occur unless specific mathematical techniques are used to prevent this problem) was a decrease in the rate of brain shrinkage associated with galantamine treatment. More patients treated with cholinesterase inhibitors dropped out of trials because of adverse effects than patients given placebo. Finally, in the one trial that reported all causes of deaths, one participant who received placebo and six who received galantamine died.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the use of cholinesterase inhibitors is not associated with any delay in the onset of clinically diagnosed AD or dementia in people with MCI. They also show that the use of these drugs has no effect on most surrogate (substitute) indicators of AD but that the risks associated with their use are not negligible. However, because MCI has not yet been clearly defined as a clinical condition that precedes dementia, some (even many) of the patients enrolled into the trials that the researchers assessed may not actually have had MCI. Thus, further clinical trials are needed to clarify whether cholinesterase inhibitors can delay the progression of MCI to dementia, but these additional trials should not be done until the diagnosis of MCI has been standardized.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
An essay by Matthews and colleagues, in the October 2007 issue of PLoS Medicine, discusses how mild cognitive impairment is currently diagnosed
The US Alzheimer's Association provides information about all aspects of Alzheimer disease, including fact sheets on treatments for Alzheimer disease and on mild cognitive impairment
The UK Alzheimer's Society provides information for patients and caregivers on all aspects of dementia, including drug treatments and mild cognitive impairment
The UK charity DIPEx provides short video clips of personal experiences of care givers of people with dementia
PMCID: PMC2082649  PMID: 18044984
15.  Effect of multivitamin and multimineral supplementation on cognitive function in men and women aged 65 years and over: a randomised controlled trial 
Nutrition Journal  2007;6:10.
Observational studies have frequently reported an association between cognitive function and nutrition in later life but randomised trials of B vitamins and antioxidant supplements have mostly found no beneficial effect. We examined the effect of daily supplementation with 11 vitamins and 5 minerals on cognitive function in older adults to assess the possibility that this could help to prevent cognitive decline.
The study was carried out as part of a randomised double blind placebo controlled trial of micronutrient supplementation based in six primary care health centres in North East Scotland. 910 men and women aged 65 years and over living in the community were recruited and randomised: 456 to active treatment and 454 to placebo. The active treatment consisted of a single tablet containing eleven vitamins and five minerals in amounts ranging from 50–210 % of the UK Reference Nutrient Intake or matching placebo tablet taken daily for 12 months. Digit span forward and verbal fluency tests, which assess immediate memory and executive functioning respectively, were conducted at the start and end of the intervention period. Risk of micronutrient deficiency at baseline was assessed by a simple risk questionnaire.
For digit span forward there was no evidence of an effect of supplements in all participants or in sub-groups defined by age or risk of deficiency. For verbal fluency there was no evidence of a beneficial effect in the whole study population but there was weak evidence for a beneficial effect of supplementation in the two pre-specified subgroups: in those aged 75 years and over (n 290; mean difference between supplemented and placebo groups 2.8 (95% CI -0.6, 6.2) units) and in those at increased risk of micronutrient deficiency assessed by the risk questionnaire (n 260; mean difference between supplemented and placebo groups 2.5 (95% CI -1.0, 6.1) units).
The results provide no evidence for a beneficial effect of daily multivitamin and multimineral supplements on these domains of cognitive function in community-living people over 65 years. However, the possibility of beneficial effects in older people and those at greater risk of nutritional deficiency deserves further attention.
PMCID: PMC1872030  PMID: 17474991
16.  Dementia 
Clinical Evidence  2012;2012:1001.
Dementia is characterised by chronic, global, non-reversible deterioration in memory, executive function, and personality. Speech and motor function may also be impaired.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of treatments on cognitive symptoms of dementia (Alzheimer's, Lewy body, or vascular)? What are the effects of treatments on behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (Alzheimer's, Lewy body, or vascular)? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to July 2011 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically; please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
We found 49 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
In this systematic review, we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine), antidepressants (clomipramine, fluoxetine, imipramine, sertraline), antipsychotics (haloperidol, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone), aromatherapy, benzodiazepines (diazepam, lorazepam), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), cognitive stimulation, exercise, ginkgo biloba, memantine, mood stabilisers (carbamazepine, sodium valproate/valproic acid), music therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), omega 3 (fish oil), reminiscence therapy, and statins.
Key Points
Dementia is characterised by chronic, global, non-reversible deterioration in memory, executive function, and personality. Speech and motor function may also be impaired.
Median life expectancy for people with Alzheimer's and Lewy body dementia is about 6 years after diagnosis, although many people may live far longer.
RCTs of dementia are often not representative of all people with dementia; most are of 6 months' duration or less, not in primary care, and in people with Alzheimer's disease. Few RCTs address vascular dementia, and fewer still Lewy body dementia.
Some cognitive symptoms of dementia may be improved by acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil, galantamine, and rivastigmine). Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors may improve cognitive function and global function scores compared with placebo at 12 to 26 weeks in people with Alzheimer's disease. However, they may be associated with an increase in adverse effects, particularly GI symptoms (anorexia, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea).
We don't know whether cognitive stimulation, music therapy, reminiscence therapy, omega 3 fish oil, statins, or NSAIDs are effective at improving cognitive outcomes in people with cognitive symptoms of dementia, as we found insufficient evidence.
In people with cognitive symptoms, memantine may modestly improve cognitive function and global function scores in people with Alzheimer's disease over 24 to 28 weeks, and may modestly improve activities of daily living scores in people with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease. Although memantine is associated with a statistically significant increase in cognition scores in some population groups, the clinical importance of some of these results is unclear.
We found inconsistent evidence on the effects of ginkgo biloba on cognitive outcomes, which varied by the analysis performed. We found no evidence that ginkgo biloba improves activities of daily living outcomes, but the available evidence was weak.
Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors may marginally improve neuropsychiatric symptoms compared with placebo in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, but they are also associated with adverse effects.
We don't know whether antidepressants (clomipramine, fluoxetine, imipramine, sertraline) improve depressive symptoms in people with Alzheimer's disease associated with depression. Many RCTs were small and short term, and adverse effects were sparsely reported.
Memantine may be associated with a small improvement in neuropsychiatric symptoms compared with placebo in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, but it is also associated with adverse effects.
We don't know whether diazepam, lorazepam, aromatherapy, CBT, exercise, carbamazepine, or sodium valproate/valproic acid are effective at improving neuropsychiatric symptoms in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, as we found insufficient evidence.
Some antipsychotics may improve neuropsychiatric symptoms or aggression in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, but antipsychotics are also associated with an increased risk of severe adverse events such as stroke, TIA, or death.
CAUTION: Regulatory bodies have issued alerts that both conventional and atypical antipsychotics are associated with an increased risk of death in older people treated for dementia-related psychosis.
PMCID: PMC3437526  PMID: 23870856
High homocysteine levels may be neurotoxic and contribute to cognitive decline in older persons.
Examine the effect of supplementation with folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 on cognitive change among women with cardiovascular disease (CVD) or CVD risk factors.
The Women's Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study is a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to test a combination of B vitamins (folic acid 2.5 mg, vitamin B6 50 mg, and vitamin B12 1 mg, daily) for secondary prevention of CVD. Randomization took place among 5,442 female health professionals, 40+ years, with CVD or at least three coronary risk factors in 1998 (after folic acid fortification began in the US). Shortly after randomization (mean=1.2 years), a cognitive function substudy was initiated among 2009 participants aged 65+ years. Telephone cognitive function testing was administered up to four times over 5.4 years with 5 tests of general cognition, verbal memory and category fluency. Repeated measures analyses were conducted. The primary outcome was a global composite score averaging all tests.
Mean cognitive change from baseline did not differ between the B vitamin and placebo groups (difference in change in global score= 0.03, 95% CI −0.03, 0.08; p=0.30). However, supplementation appeared to confer benefits in preserving cognition among women with low baseline dietary intake of B vitamins.
Combined B vitamin supplementation did not delay cognitive decline among women with CVD or CVD risk factors. Possible cognitive benefits of supplementation among women with low dietary intake of B vitamins warrant further study.
PMCID: PMC3470481  PMID: 19064521
18.  The FOCUS trial: cognitive remediation plus standard treatment versus standard treatment for patients at ultra-high risk for psychosis: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial 
Trials  2015;16:25.
Cognitive deficits are a distinct feature among people at ultra-high risk (UHR) for psychosis and pose a barrier to functional recovery. Insufficient evidence exists on how to ameliorate these cognitive deficits in patients at UHR for psychosis and hence improve daily living and quality of life. The aim of the trial is to investigate whether cognitive remediation can improve cognitive and psychosocial function in patients at UHR for psychosis.
The FOCUS trial (Function and Overall Cognition in Ultra-high risk States) is a randomised, parallel group, observer-blinded clinical trial enrolling 126 patients meeting the standardised criteria of being at UHR for psychosis. Patients are recruited from psychiatric in- and outpatient facilities in the Copenhagen catchment area. Patients are randomised to one of the two treatment arms: cognitive remediation plus standard treatment versus standard treatment. The cognitive remediation consists of 24 weekly group-based and manualised sessions targeting neurocognition and social cognition. In addition to the group sessions, the patients will be offered 12 individual sessions aiming at maximising the transfer of the effects of the cognitive training to their everyday lives. Follow-up assessments will be conducted at 6 and 12 months after randomisation. The primary outcome is the composite score on the Brief Assessment of Cognition in Schizophrenia at cessation of treatment after 6 months. Secondary outcomes are social and daily functioning, psychosis-like symptoms, negative symptomatology, and depressive symptomatology as measured with the Personal and Social Performance Scale, Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale-Expanded Version, Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms, and the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale.
This is the first trial to evaluate the effects of neurocognitive and social cognitive remediation in UHR patients. The FOCUS trial results will provide evidence on the effect of targeted and comprehensive cognitive rehabilitation on cognition, daily living, and symptomatology as well as long-term outcome in preventing transition to psychosis in UHR patients.
Trial registration NCT 02098408. Date of registration 18 March 2014.
PMCID: PMC4318160  PMID: 25623736
At-risk mental state; Ultra-high risk for psychosis; Prodromal schizophrenia; Prodromal intervention; Cognitive remediation; Cognitive training; Social cognitive training; Neurocognitive training
19.  Assessment of erythrocyte phospholipid fatty acid composition as a biomarker for dietary MUFA, PUFA or saturated fatty acid intake in a controlled cross-over intervention trial 
Dietary intervention trials rely on self-reported measures of intake for assessment of energy and macronutrient composition. Dietary fat intake is of particular interest due to strong associations with pathophysiology. In epidemiological trials phospholipid fatty acid composition may reflect composition of habitual diet, although strong correlations have been identified only for essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Preliminary evidence shows that saturated fatty acids (SFA) C15:0 and C17:0 may be acceptable biomarkers. This study measured changes in erythrocyte membrane fatty acids during a period of strictly controlled fat feeding to investigate their use as a short-term marker of compliance, particularly for intake of SFAs.
This was a randomised cross-over trial in which diet was provided and strictly controlled. 20 healthy, male subjects were given a 40 energy % (en%) fat diet, high in saturated (high-SFA, 20 en%) or unsaturated (high-USFA, 24 en%) fatty acids for 2 periods of 3 weeks. Subjects were residential during intervention with all food and beverages provided. Dietary composition was verified by direct chemical analysis. Blood samples were collected on days 1,7,14, 21 and analysed for red blood cell (RBC) membrane fatty acid composition. Pearson correlation showed RBC fatty acid composition to mimic dietary composition by 3 weeks, but the relationships were weak. Of the SFAs only RBC C16:0 decreased in response to decreased dietary content on high-USFA treatment (ANOVA, diet, P < 0.05). Of the USFAs, higher levels of C18:1 MUFA, C20:4 and C22:6 long chain PUFA on high-USFA diet lead to higher C18:1, C20:4 and C22:6 within RBCs (ANOVA, time*diet, P < 0.05). Pearson's correlation was significant between dietary and RBC fatty acids during the 21d dietary manipulation for C18:1, and C20:5, C22:6 only (P < 0.05).
RBC membrane fatty acids cannot reliably be used as an independent measure of compliance for dietary SFA intake in short-term studies. The MUFA oleic acid and PUFAs EPA and DHA may be more useful as markers of compliance during short term intervention trials.
PMCID: PMC1334191  PMID: 16329761
erythrocyte phospholipids; fatty acids; biomarkers; residential intervention
20.  Effect of a Nutrition Supplement and Physical Activity Program on Pneumonia and Walking Capacity in Chilean Older People: A Factorial Cluster Randomized Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(4):e1001023.
Alan Dangour and colleagues report results from the CENEX (Cost-effectiveness Evaluation of a Nutritional supplement and EXercise program for older people) trial, which evaluates a nutritional and exercise program aiming to prevent pneumonia and physical decline in Chilean people.
Ageing is associated with increased risk of poor health and functional decline. Uncertainties about the health-related benefits of nutrition and physical activity for older people have precluded their widespread implementation. We investigated the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a national nutritional supplementation program and/or a physical activity intervention among older people in Chile.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cluster randomized factorial trial among low to middle socioeconomic status adults aged 65–67.9 years living in Santiago, Chile. We randomized 28 clusters (health centers) into the study and recruited 2,799 individuals in 2005 (∼100 per cluster). The interventions were a daily micronutrient-rich nutritional supplement, or two 1-hour physical activity classes per week, or both interventions, or neither, for 24 months. The primary outcomes, assessed blind to allocation, were incidence of pneumonia over 24 months, and physical function assessed by walking capacity 24 months after enrolment. Adherence was good for the nutritional supplement (∼75%), and moderate for the physical activity intervention (∼43%). Over 24 months the incidence rate of pneumonia did not differ between intervention and control clusters (32.5 versus 32.6 per 1,000 person years respectively; risk ratio = 1.00; 95% confidence interval 0.61–1.63; p = 0.99). In intention-to-treat analysis, after 24 months there was a significant difference in walking capacity between the intervention and control clusters (mean difference 33.8 meters; 95% confidence interval 13.9–53.8; p = 0.001). The overall cost of the physical activity intervention over 24 months was US$164/participant; equivalent to US$4.84/extra meter walked. The number of falls and fractures was balanced across physical activity intervention arms and no serious adverse events were reported for either intervention.
Chile's nutritional supplementation program for older people is not effective in reducing the incidence of pneumonia. This trial suggests that the provision of locally accessible physical activity classes in a transition economy population can be a cost-effective means of enhancing physical function in later life.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN 48153354
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
By 2050, about a quarter of the world's population will be aged 60 years or over, with Asia and Latin America experiencing the most dramatic increases in the proportion of older people. For example, in Chile, which has recently undergone rapid demographic transition, the proportion of the population aged 60 years or over has increased from 8% to 12% over the past 25 years.
Current global policy initiatives that promote healthy ageing include an emphasis on adequate nutrient intakes, as longitudinal studies (conducted in high-income countries) suggest that achieving nutritional sufficiency and maintaining moderate levels of physical activity both decrease risk of mortality by preserving immune function and lean body mass and so reduce the numerous risk factors for disability and chronic disease in later life. Such interventions may also decrease the risk of infection, particularly pneumonia, a common cause of death in older people. However, older people in low- and middle-income countries frequently have diets with insufficient calories (energy) and/or micronutrients.
Why Was This Study Done?
Currently, there is no high-quality evidence to support the benefits of improved nutrition and increased physical activity levels from low-income or transition economies, where the ongoing demographic trends suggest that the needs are greatest. National policies aimed at preserving health and function in older people with interventions such as cash-transfers and provision of “food baskets” are often used in Latin American countries, such as Chile, but are rarely formally evaluated. Therefore, the purpose of this study (the Cost-effectiveness Evaluation of a Nutritional supplement and EXercise program for older people—CENEX) was to evaluate Chile's national nutritional supplementation program and/or physical exercise, to investigate whether this program prevented pneumonia and physical functional decline in older people in Santiago, and also to investigate whether these interventions were cost-effective.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomly allocated 28 participating health centers in Santiago, Chile, into one of four arms: (1) nutritional supplementation; (2) nutritional supplementation+physical activity; (3) physical activity alone; (4) control. From May to December 2005, 2,799 eligible adults aged 65–67.9 years and living in low to middle socioeconomic circumstances, who attended each health center, were recruited into the study and received the allocated intervention—daily micronutrient-rich nutritional supplement, or two 1-hour physical activity classes per week, or both interventions or neither—for 24 months. The researchers did not know the allocation arm of each patient and over the course of the study assessed the incidence of pneumonia (viral and bacterial as based on diagnosis at the health center or hospital) and physical function was measured by walking capacity (meters walked in 6 minutes). The researchers used administrative records and interviews with staff and patients to estimate the cost-effectiveness of the interventions.
Participant retention in the study was 84%, although only three-quarters of patients receiving the nutritional intervention and less than half (43%) of patients in the physical activity intervention arm adhered to their respective programs. Over 24 months, the incidence rate of pneumonia did not differ between intervention and control groups (32.5 versus 32.6 per 1,000 person years, respectively), but at the end of the study period, there was a significant difference in walking capacity between the intervention and control clusters (mean difference 33.8 meters). The number of falls and fractures in the study arms were similar. The overall costs over 24 months were US$91.00 and US$163.70 per participant for the nutritional supplement and physical activity interventions, respectively. The cost of the physical activity intervention per extra meter walked at 24 months was US$4.84.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of this trial suggest that there is little evidence to support the effectiveness of Chile's national nutritional supplementation program in reducing the incidence of pneumonia for 65.0–67.9 year olds. Therefore, given Chile's high burden of infectious and nutrition-related chronic diseases and the associated high health costs, this program should not be considered as a priority preventive public health intervention. However, the provision of locally available physical activity classes to older people could be of clinical benefit, especially in urban settings such as Santiago, although future challenges include increasing the uptake of, and retention to, such programs.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides information about the state of health in Chile
Wikipedia also provides information about health and health care in Chile (please note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC3079648  PMID: 21526229
21.  Plasma omega-3 PUFA and white matter mediated executive decline in older adults 
Introduction: Cross-sectional studies have identified long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid 20:5n-3 and docosahexaenoic acid 22:6n-3 (O3PUFA) in association with fewer white matter lesions and better executive function in older adults. We hypothesized that O3PUFA are associated with less executive decline over time and that total white matter hyperintensity volume (WMH) mediates this association.
Methods: Eighty-six non-demented older adults were followed over 4 years after measurement of plasma O3PUFA with annual evaluations of cognitive function. A subset of these participants also had brain MRI of total WMH available to conduct a formal mediation analysis of a putative relationship between O3PUFA and cognitive function.
Results: Mean age at baseline was 86, 62% were female and 11% carried the APOE4 allele. Each 100 μg/ml increase in plasma O3PUFA associated with 4 s less change in executive decline per year of aging (p = 0.02, fully adjusted model). O3PUFA was not associated with verbal memory or global cognitive changes. The significance of the association between O3PUFA and better executive function was lost once WMH was added to the regression model.
Conclusion: Executive decline with age appears to be a cognitive domain particularly sensitive to plasma O3PUFA in longitudinal examination. O3PUFA may modulate executive functioning by mechanisms underlying the development of WMH, a biologically plausible hypothesis that warrants further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3863786  PMID: 24379780
omega-3 fatty acids; white matter hyperintensity; cognitive decline; memory; hypertension
22.  Essential fatty acids in full term infants fed breast milk or formula. 
To determine the biochemical effects of the fatty acid composition of plasma lipids, two groups of 10 healthy full term infants who were either exclusively breast fed or received a formula with similar contents of linoleic and alpha linolenic acids, but without long chain polyunsaturated (LCP) fatty acids, were studied prospectively. Plasma phospholipid, triglyceride, and sterol ester fatty acids were determined at the age of 2, 4, and 8 weeks by high resolution capillary gas chromatography. Breast fed infants maintained stable LCP fatty acid concentrations throughout the study. Formula fed infants had significantly lower median values of arachidonic acid (AA) at the ages of 2 (6.9 v 9.5% wt/wt) and 4 weeks (5.9 v 7.9%) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) at the ages of 4 (1.1 v 1.7%) and 8 weeks (1.0 v 1.7%) in plasma phospholipids. Median AA values in triglycerides were also significantly lower in the infants receiving formula at the ages of 2 (0.4 v 0.6%) and 4 weeks (0.3 v 0.6%). It is concluded that formula fed full term infants are unable to match the omega-3 and omega-6 LCP status of breast fed full term infants until at least two months after birth.
PMCID: PMC2528425  PMID: 7743279
23.  Role of long-chain and very-long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in macular degenerations and dystrophies 
Clinical lipidology  2011;6(5):593-613.
Macular degeneration is a progressive, bilateral eye disorder that damages the macula of the human eye. The most common form of macular degeneration is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in people older than 50 years in developed countries. Autosomal dominant Stargardt disease-3 (STGD3) is an inherited macular dystrophy that has clinical features similar to dry AMD, but occurs at a much earlier age. It is caused by a mutation in the elongation of very-long-chain fatty acids-like 4 (ELOVL4) gene, which is responsible for encoding the elongase enzyme that converts shorter chain fatty acids into C28–C38 very long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (VLCPUFAs, total number of carbons ≥24). Diets rich in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) have inverse associations with the progression of AMD and STGD3, and a deficiency in retinal LCPUFAs and VLCPUFAs has been detected in AMD retinas and STGD3 animal models. This article systematically summarizes the roles of LCPUFAs and VLCPUFAs in AMD and STGD3, and discusses future research directions.
PMCID: PMC4196247  PMID: 25324899
age-related macular degeneration (AMD); autosomal dominant Stargardt disease-3 (STGD3); elongation of very-long-chain fatty acids-like 4 (ELOVL4); long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA); very-long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (VLCPUFA)
24.  Alcohol Consumption at Midlife and Successful Ageing in Women: A Prospective Cohort Analysis in the Nurses' Health Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(9):e1001090.
Using the Nurses' Health Study, Qi Sun and colleagues examine whether moderate alcohol intake is associated with overall health and well-being among women who survive to older age.
Observational studies have documented inverse associations between moderate alcohol consumption and risk of premature death. It is largely unknown whether moderate alcohol intake is also associated with overall health and well-being among populations who have survived to older age. In this study, we prospectively examined alcohol use assessed at midlife in relation to successful ageing in a cohort of US women.
Methods and Findings
Alcohol consumption at midlife was assessed using a validated food frequency questionnaire. Subsequently, successful ageing was defined in 13,894 Nurses' Health Study participants who survived to age 70 or older, and whose health status was continuously updated. “Successful ageing” was considered as being free of 11 major chronic diseases and having no major cognitive impairment, physical impairment, or mental health limitations. Analyses were restricted to the 98.1% of participants who were not heavier drinkers (>45 g/d) at midlife. Of all eligible study participants, 1,491 (10.7%) achieved successful ageing. After multivariable adjustment of potential confounders, light-to-moderate alcohol consumption at midlife was associated with modestly increased odds of successful ageing. The odds ratios (95% confidence interval) were 1.0 (referent) for nondrinkers, 1.11 (0.96–1.29) for ≤5.0 g/d, 1.19 (1.01–1.40) for 5.1–15.0 g/d, 1.28 (1.03–1.58) for 15.1–30.0 g/d, and 1.24 (0.87–1.76) for 30.1–45.0 g/d. Meanwhile, independent of total alcohol intake, participants who drank alcohol at regular patterns throughout the week, rather than on a single occasion, had somewhat better odds of successful ageing; for example, the odds ratios (95% confidence interval) were 1.29 (1.01–1.64) and 1.47 (1.14–1.90) for those drinking 3–4 days and 5–7 days per week in comparison with nondrinkers, respectively, whereas the odds ratio was 1.10 (0.94–1.30) for those drinking only 1–2 days per week.
These data suggest that regular, moderate consumption of alcohol at midlife may be related to a modest increase in overall health status among women who survive to older ages.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
People have always drunk alcoholic beverages but throughout history there have been arguments about the risks and benefits of beer, wine, and spirits. It is clear that excessive alcohol use—heavy drinking (an average of more than two drinks per day for men or more than one drink per day for women; in the US, a “drink” is defined as 15 g of alcohol or, roughly speaking, a can of beer or a small glass of wine) or binge drinking (five or more drinks on a single occasion for men; 4 or more drinks at one time for women)—is harmful. It causes liver damage and increases the risk of developing some types of cancer. It contributes to depression and violence and interferes with relationships. And it is often implicated in fatal traffic accidents. However, in contrast to these and other harms associated with excessive alcohol use, moderate alcohol consumption seems to reduce the risk of specific diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and cognitive decline (deterioration in learning, reasoning, and perception).
Why Was This Study Done?
Although people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol have a reduced risk of premature death compared to abstainers or heavy drinkers, it is not known whether moderate alcohol consumption is associated with overall health among ageing populations. In many countries, elderly people are an increasingly large part of the population, so it is important to know how moderate alcohol consumption affects their well-being. In this study, the researchers examine the effect of alcohol consumption at midlife on successful ageing among the participants of the Nurses' Health Study. The researchers study the effect of midlife alcohol consumption because the chronic conditions that affect elderly people develop slowly and it is likely that factors in earlier life determine health in later life. Successful ageing is defined as being free of major chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease, and having no major cognitive impairment, physical impairment, or mental health problems. The Nurses' Health Study enrolled 121,700 female registered nurses in 1976 to investigate the long-term effects of oral contraceptive use but has provided insights into many aspects of health and disease.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers assessed the alcohol consumption of the study participants at midlife (average age 58 years) from food frequency questionnaires completed in 1980 and 1984. Successful ageing for 13,984 participants who survived past 70 years was assessed by analyzing biennial health status questionnaires and cognitive function test results. One tenth of the women achieved successful ageing. After allowing for other factors that might affect their health such as smoking, women who drank light or moderate amounts of alcohol had a modestly increased chance of successful ageing compared to nondrinkers. For example, compared to nondrinkers, women who drank 5–15 g of alcohol per day (between one-third and one drink per day) had about a 20% higher chance of successful ageing. Independent of total alcohol intake, women who drank alcohol regularly had a better chance of successful ageing than occasional drinkers. Thus, compared to nondrinkers, women who drank five to seven days a week had nearly a 50% greater chance of successful ageing whereas women who drank only one or two days a week had a similar likelihood of successful ageing.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that regular, moderate consumption of alcohol at midlife may be related to a modest increase in overall health among women who survive to older ages. Because this is an observational study, it is possible that the women who drank moderately share other unknown characteristics that are actually responsible for their increased chance of successful ageing. Moreover, because all the study participants were women and most had European ancestry, these findings cannot be applied to men or to other ethnic groups. Nevertheless, these findings provide support for the 2010 US Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines, which state that consumption of up to one alcoholic drink per day for women and up to two alcoholic drinks per day for men may provide health benefits. Importantly, they also suggest that drinking alcohol regularly in moderation rather than occasional heavy drinking may be associated with a greater likelihood of successful ageing.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has detailed information about alcohol and its effects on health, including a fact sheet on women and alcohol and a booklet entitled Alcohol, a woman's health issue
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website on alcohol and public health
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides detailed information about drinking and alcohol, including how to calculate consumption
The Nutrition Source, a website maintained by the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, has an article entitled Alcohol: balancing risks and benefits
MedlinePlus provides links to many other resources on alcohol and on seniors' health
Details of the Nurses' Health Study are available
The 2010 US Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines are available
PMCID: PMC3167795  PMID: 21909248
25.  Diet and Neurocognition: Review of Evidence and Methodological Considerations 
Current aging science  2010;3(1):57-66.
The relationship between diet and cognitive function has been a topic of increasing interest, as numerous studies have shown that variations in dietary practices and nutrient intake are may protect against age-related cognitive decline, as well as the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Various dietary practices and specific nutrient components of these diets have been examined in relation to cognitive performance including 1) dietary fatty acids (including fish oil) and the Mediterranean diet, 2) antioxidants (including vitamins E and C) and fruits and vegetables, 3) vitamins B6, B12 (cobolamine), and folate, and, more recently, 4) caloric restriction. Although observational studies have generally reported significant associations between dietary practices and reduced incidence of cognitive dysfunction, randomized trials of dietary interventions have yielded mixed findings, with many trials yielding small gains or equivocal findings. In addition, findings appear to vary based on sample characteristics, methods of dietary assessment, and length of study follow-up. The influence of dietary practices on cognitive function in middle aged and older adults remains uncertain, and further research is needed to clarify the nature of this relationship and identify mechanisms by which diet may affect neurocognition.
PMCID: PMC3587759  PMID: 20298171

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