Irish 'breakthrough of the century' on Alzheimer's disease
Ireland is set for a medical research windfall, with potentially enormous commercial spin-offs, from a landmark study that revealed a diet supplement can slow the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
The pioneering Irish study has shown a supplement of simple nutritional elements found in foods such as trout, broccoli and peppers can critically help slow the development of the condition.
The study, by scientists at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) in conjunction with others from Cambridge University, has been hailed by one researcher as "one of the most important medical advancements of the century".
The discovery was made by experts at the Nutritional Research Centre, which is based at the School of Health Science in WIT. Its results have now been published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
The 18-month study examined the effect of nutritional compounds - found in common foods such as trout, broccoli and peppers - on people with the dementia condition.
Pioneered by Cambridge University academic Dr Alan Howard, the trial studied people diagnosed with Alzheimer's from a mild to advanced stage.
The trial was conducted with the support of University Hospital Waterford (UHW) and involved two different food formulas, one with a specially designed fish oil.
Patients receiving the formula containing fish oil were found to have functional benefits in their memory, sight and even mood.
"This represents one of the most important medical advancements of the century," Dr Howard said.
"Alzheimer's disease is the largest public health crisis we face, and drug companies have so far fallen at every hurdle in finding a solution."
The WIT study was led by Prof John Nolan.
Dr Riona Murray said: "Given our growing and ageing population and, importantly, that we live in a time when the nutritional value of foods continues to decline, I believe this is a valuable discovery that will challenge perceptions worldwide about the role of nutrition on brain function.
"Up-to-date best medical advice suggests that you can lower your risk of Alzheimer's through moderate alcohol intake, not smoking, being physically and mentally active and eating a well-balanced diet."