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Alzheimer’s disease

Scientists from Georgetown University, Washington DC, have developed and validated a new blood test that is able to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s up to 3 years before symptoms are evident. The new test can predict the development of the disease, with up to 90% accuracy, by measuring the amounts of lipids in the blood. During the five-year study, blood samples from people aged 70 years or over were collected. Of the samples obtained, the researchers then compared the blood samples of 53 participants who went on to develop Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment with those who did not develop any cognitive impairment. The results revealed a difference in the levels of 10 specific fats in the blood between the healthy participants and the cognitively impaired participants.

This is the first study identifying blood markers for Alzheimer’s disease, and represents a large step forward in Alzheimer’s research. One major issue with Alzheimer’s disease is that treatment is not started until symptoms are present, which may be too late to have a substantial effect on disease progression.

The markers identified in this study can predict Alzheimer’s within three years of onset, however the researchers are now aiming to investigate the potential the markers have to predict Alzheimer’s onset even further in advance. The blood test will now also be assessed in larger clinical trials.


Mark Mapstone, Amrita K Cheema, Massimo S Fiandaca, Xiaogang Zhong, Timothy R Mhyre, Linda H MacArthur, William J Hall, Susan G Fisher, Derick R Peterson, James M Haley, Michael D Nazar, Steven A Rich, Dan J Berlau, Carrie B Peltz, Ming T Tan, Claudia H Kawas, Howard J Federoff. “Plasma phospholipids identify antecedent memory impairment in older adults.” Nature Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nm.3466


New Recommendations from the World Health Organization

The World Health Organization has released new guidelines for sugar consumption. The guidelines state that sugar should ideally make up no more than 5%, to a maximum of 10%, of total daily energy intake. This equates to no more than 12 teaspoons (aiming for closer to 6) of sugar for adults daily, and no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar for children per day.

The WHO recommendations apply to sugar that is added to processed foods and sugary drinks, in addition to natural sugars that are found in honey, syrups, and juices. The greatest concern is those sugars that are added to processed foods, which are ‘hidden’ and sometimes not obvious to the consumer. Sugar added in processed foods is contributing to the rising levels of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay. The need for greater regulation of processed foods has been suggested, in addition to higher taxes on these types of food, with the idea that higher prices will discourage purchases.


WHO Launch of the public consultation on the draft sugar intake guidelines – Press briefing. Available from: Last Accessed: March 12, 2014.


Aortic Valve Replacement

A new technique developed by surgeons in France allows for aortic valve replacement surgery via an endoscopic method, without opening the chest. The technique, called totally endoscopic aortic valve replacement (TEAVR), will significantly reduce recovery time and pain for surgical patients. Reported in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, the first human TEAVR procedures were successfully carried out on two patients, taking less than 45 minutes for each surgery.

Dr Marco Vola, MD, PhD, of the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Saint-Etienne, France, states that if required during surgery, a ‘mini-thoracotomy’ could still be conducted, which would allow direct view for the surgeons.

The authors note that there could be further improvements to the procedure, including: dedicated instruments for decalcification, second-generation sutureless bioprostheses to simplify implantation, and even surgical robots.

The study demonstrates the ability to perform this type of surgery totally endoscopically and suturelessly, however continued study will refine the procedures, leading to better health outcomes for patients.


Marco Vola, MD, PhD; Jean-François Fuzellier, MD; Bertrand Chavent, MD; and Ambroise Duprey, MD “First human totally endoscopic aortic valve replacement: An early report,” The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Volume 147, Issue 3 (March 2014), (DOI:


High Protein Diet

A seven-year study was conducted by researchers in Japan to determine whether protein intake could affect the functional capabilities of older people. The study was based on previous research that suggests a loss of ability to absorb protein in the older population, leading to an increase in protein requirement with age.

1,007 people participated in the study, with an average age of 67.4 years. Each participant filled out food questionnaires at the beginning and the end of the seven-year study. The participants underwent testing of higher-level functional capacity. The results showed that men with the highest intake of animal protein also had a 39 percent reduction in higher-level functional decline when compared to men who reported the lowest intake of animal protein. These results were not observed when assessing intake of plant protein, and were also not observed in women.

The study suggests that in the ageing population, a diet high in animal protein could help to maintain functional abilities.


Eri Imai, Megumi Tsubota-Utsugi, Masahiro Kikuya, Michihiro Satoh, Ryuske Inoue, Miki Hosaka, Hirohito Metoki, Naomi Fukushima, Ayumi Kurimoto, Takuo Hirose, Kei Asayama, Yutaka Imai, Takayoshi Ohkubo. “Animal Protein Intake Is Associated with Higher-Level Functional Capacity in Elderly Adults: The Ohasama Study.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/jgs.12690



Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD

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