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» Study Finds Antioxidant Diet May Not Prevent Dementia

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A recent study conducted by the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago has predicted that the number of Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s will triple by 2050. Researchers claim that this expected increase is due to a better understanding of the disease, more thorough testing methods, and longer life expectancies that any growing trend with Alzheimer’s.

This predicted rise in dementia has placed a bigger focus on antioxidants, which research has celebrated as a vital part of so called “super foods” that help protect the brain from free radicals and prions, both of which have been linked to the effects of aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

However, a recent study suggests that not all diets high in antioxidants can reduce a person’s risk of stroke and dementia.

A Change in Thinking

Conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School, the study involved over 5,000 participants in the Netherlands over the age of 55. Based on questionnaires regarding the foods they ate, researchers determined each participant’s antioxidant score. Researchers then monitored participants’ health over the next 14 years to determine whether they developed dementia or suffered a stroke.

The abstract view of the study was to determine whether antioxidant levels predicated whether or not an individual had a decreased risk of suffering dementia or a stroke regardless of the source of antioxidants in a diet. Researchers did not find lower rates of stroke or dementia among participants who enjoyed diets high in antioxidants. The findings of this study run contrary to similar research conducted on the diets of different population groups.

An earlier study that examined the dietary habits of senior Italians found diets that contained higher antioxidants levels were linked to a decreased risk of stroke. Researchers concluded the difference betweens these two groups were the types of antioxidants each one consumed.

In the study involving Dutch participants the majority of the antioxidants in a diet came from the consumption of coffee or tea, while the Italian group received the majority of their antioxidants from eating fruits and vegetables. The results from these two contrasting studies have left researchers to draw the conclusion that a person’s overall antioxidant level isn’t as important as consuming specific antioxidant-rich foods.

Understanding the Results

Due to the ample evidence researchers have complied over the years that suggest the important role oxidants play in disease, data showing that antioxidants levels in a diet has no effect in preventing stroke or dementia was difficult for many to understand.

While research has previously focused on specific antioxidants that have been linked to reducing the risk of dementia or stroke, clinical trails that used these antioxidants have had little effect lowering a person’s risk for either condition. Since the consumption of specific antioxidants had little effect lowering the risk of stroke and dementia, researchers were previously left to assume that diets high in antioxidants would help to lower risk, a theory no longer supported as a result of this latest study.

Researchers must now begin to reevaluate the effects specific antioxidants have on improving health and lowering the risk of stroke and dementia. Considering the rising numbers of Alzheimer’s disease predicted in coming years, this step back in understanding the benefits of antioxidants places an even greater need for increased research into dementia.

Timothy Lemke is a freelance writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Brooke Hikade, a dentist in Clackamas, OR.


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