Preventing diabetes and depression could cut cases of dementia, a new study suggests. Boosting levels of education and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption would also have a big effect, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.
British and French researchers from Colombiere Hospital, University of Montpellier and Imperial College, wanted to assess what public health interventions could have the biggest impact on reducing dementia.
They took a group of 1,400 elderly people and tested them for signs of dementia after two, four and seven years. Alongside this they recorded height, weight, education level, monthly income, mobility, dietary habits, alcohol consumption, and tobacco use and asked participants to do a reading test as a measure of intelligence.
Eliminating depression and diabetes and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption were estimated to lead to an overall 21 per cent reduction in new cases of dementia.
Increasing education would also lead to an estimated 18 per cent reduction in new cases of dementia across the general population over the next seven years, they reported.
By contrast, removing a gene linked with the disease would only cut new cases by 7 per cent.
The team concluded that early screening for diabetes and treatment of depression would be the most useful approach for trying to reduce the future burden of dementia.
Growing body of evidence
Dr Victoria King, Head of Research at Diabetes UK, said: “Although a causal relationship between Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease cannot be confirmed from this research, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting links between Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
“With an estimated seven million people in the UK who are at high risk of Type 2 diabetes because they have raised blood glucose levels, finding ways to stop the Type 2 diabetes epidemic in its tracks can only be seen as a good thing – especially as this could prevent millions of people developing the serious complications of the condition, which include heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation.”