Patrick J.G.H. Kamphuis, and Philip Scheltens
Age-related changes in nutritional status can play an important role in brain functioning. Specific nutrient deficiencies in the elderly, including omega-3 fatty acids, B-vitamins, and antioxidants among others, may exacerbate pathological processes in the brain. Consequently, the potential of nutritional intervention to prevent or delay cognitive impairment and the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a topic of growing scientific interest. This review summarizes epidemiological studies linking specific nutritional deficiencies to mild cognitive impairment (MCI), as well as completed and ongoing nutritional studies in prevention of MCI and AD. Processes that underlie AD pathogenesis include: membrane/synaptic degeneration, abnormal protein processing (amyloid-β, tau), vascular risk factors (hypertension, hypercholesterolemia), inflammation, and oxidative stress. Consideration of mechanistic evidence to date suggests that several nutritional components can effectively counteract these processes, e.g., by promoting membrane formation and synaptogenesis, enhancing memory/behavior, improving endothelial function, and cerebrovascular health. The literature reinforces the need for early intervention in AD and suggests that multi- nutritional intervention, targeting multiple aspects of the neurodegenerative process during the earliest possible phase in the development of the disease, is likely to have the greatest therapeutic potential.