Large French Study Finds Diet and Dementia Link

Published: August 22, 2012

A study conducted at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research and published in the journal Neurology followed 8,085 people over age 65 for four years. The findings led to three main conclusions:

  1. Taking Omega 3 oils was associated with a 54% drop in dementia risk.
  2. They found a 28% drop in dementia risk among regular fruit and vegetable eaters.
  3.  They found that weekly fish consumption reduced the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 40% in those who did not have a known genetic risk factor for the disease.
  4. Eating other types of cooking oils containing omega-6—such as sunflower oil—rather than Omega 3, doubled the risk in those who were not also getting fish or fish oils in their diet. 

Dr Pascale Barberger-Gateau, from the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research in Bordeaux, said: "These results could have considerable implications for public health."

A second study looked at the effects of beta-carotene supplements over an average of 18 years.

Beta-carotene is the vitamin which gives carrots their color, and is thought to have beneficial anti-oxidant properties. It is part of a family of several "carotenoids," so it is best to get these as "mixed carotenoids" (as is found in vegetables). Otherwise it can cause problems in VERY high doses (e.g. 25,000 IU).

In this study, the 4,000 volunteers took either a beta-carotene pill or a "placebo" pill. Those who took the beta-carotene scored significantly higher on mental tests—particularly on "verbal memory." Doing badly on these tests is believed to be a sign that the person has a higher risk of dementia in later life.

Many experts suggest that anti-oxidants can slow down the damage to the body's cells—including brain cells—which is normally accumulated over a lifetime. In this case, Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body, and it is the vitamin's effect on beta-amyloid protein production that is thought to be behind the protective effects. It took 10 years of beta-carotene use to see benefit.

The upshot of these studies?

Eat fish at least 1-2 times a week, as this supplies MANY health benefits. If you're not going to eat fish, take fish oil 2-3 capsules or 1 teaspoon a day. Try to find a fish oil that is fresh and free of toxins (I like the Nordic Naturals brand). Also, eat a carrot a day or drink 6-12 ounces of V8 juice. I keep the latter in the fridge and reach for a 12 ounce can a day instead of sodas.


1. French study-effect of fish oil
P. Barberger-Gateau, PhD, C. Raffaitin, MD, L. Letenneur, PhD, C. Berr, PhD, C. Tzourio, PhD, J. F. Dartigues, PhD and A. Alpérovitch, PhD . Dietary patterns and risk of dementia—The Three-City cohort study; NEUROLOGY 2007;69:1921-1930.

2. Archives of Internal Medicine
Volume 167, Number 20, Pages 2184-2190
"A Randomized Trial of Beta Carotene Supplementation and Cognitive Function in Men: The Physicians' Health Study II"
Authors: F. Grodstein, J.H. Kang, R.J. Glynn, N.R. Cook, J.M. Gaziano

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.

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