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Dementia and Nutrition

An aging population globally faces a cruel irony thanks to lifespan extension brought about via improvements in public health and health care. Living longer means a worldwide increase in patients with chronic disease, including dementia. This global epidemic of dementia cannot be ignored or neglected any longer. The gravity of the situation means it should be recognized as a public health priority everywhere. A syndrome affecting memory, thought, and behavior which also impedes the ability to perform everyday activities, dementia usually develops slowly over time and originates from a variety of brain illnesses, including Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, and others. Significant evidence has accumulated to suggest that dementia has a lifelong trajectory comparable to several other chronic diseases occurring later in life. The risk for developing this disease clusters around specific developmental epochs with effects building, though sometimes hidden due to relatively long latent periods before the onset of clinical dementia syndromes.

Diet and nutrition play an important role in maintaining health and well-being. Good nutrition contributes to healthy brain development, which may protect against the onset of dementia in later life. Mechanistic evidence and animal models also suggest that nutrients can be directly implicated in modifying and reducing brain damage. Micronutrients and macronutrients are both involved in modulating the production and activity of neurotrophins (proteins implicated in the development, function, and survival of neurons), having vasoprotective effects, and favor the clearance of β-amyloid (the main substrate contributing to cerebrovascular lesion and neurotoxicity in Alzheimer's disease). Sufficient nutrient intake remains critical in protecting against micronutrient deficiencies potentially harmful to the brain. Malnutrition results from an inadequate nutrient intake compounded in older adults due to diminished ability to digest, absorb, and metabolize nutrients from foods. To help prevent dementia, oral nutritional supplementation (ONS) is very important, especially in the elderly with or at risk for under-nutrition.

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