For this study, about 400 men and women, average age 76, were randomized to receive 2 grams daily of DHA or a placebo. All had mild to moderate Alzheimer's, meaning "they had enough of an impairment to justify a diagnosis but are living at home, interacting with families and enjoying a pretty good quality of life," Quinn said. "These are people for whom slowing the rate of progression would really make a difference."
Participants weren't eating a lot of fish or taking supplements at the start of the study.
Although both blood and cerebrospinal fluid levels of DHA increased in the treatment group, there were no differences on two different measures of cognitive function between the groups, Quinn reported.
The only slightly encouraging news was that people without the APOE-4 gene variant, which confers a higher risk of Alzheimer's, may have benefited slightly. However, Quinn urged extreme caution in interpreting this secondary analysis.
"It's not so solid a finding that it should change any treatment recommendations or advice to the public," he said.
A second study appearing in the same journal and presented at the news conference found that being hospitalized or having activity restricted as the result of illness or injury, as well as general physical frailty, speeded an elderly person becoming disabled or more disabled and even dying.
Not surprisingly, falls were at particular fault.
Only 117 participants were still nondisabled and alive at the end of the study, which involved almost 800 elderly adults and lasted a decade. An illness or injury leading to hospitalization increased the likelihood of shifting from not disabled to severely disabled more than 160-fold, said study author Dr. Thomas Gill, a professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., where the research was conducted.
The Alzheimer's Asso
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