NIH Says "Alzheimer's not Preventable"

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

Based on current evidence, the recent conclusion reached by a National Institute of Health panel of experts, is pretty sound. They concluded that we do not yet have proof that the progression of Alzheimer's disease pathology can be slowed by actively reducing known risk factors and by adopting certain lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, intellectual stimulation, and physical exercise.

Careful Interpretation Required
As we often write in this blog, scientists speak in a language of precision that serves them well amongst themselves but often leads to unintended conclusions in the public realm. This is a case where I think it is worthwhile to translate the panel's conclusion for public consumption.

Here is a quote from one of the panel experts; this was one of the direct comments that generated the hopeless headlines in countless news outlets over the past week:
"There is not a high level of evidence that any of these factors (supplements, mental exercise, medications) can prevent Alzheimer's or age-related cognitive decline."
Now let me state it in another way that would be equally acceptable to the independent and precision minded scientists on the panel:
"There is not a high level of evidence that any of these factors (supplements, mental exercise, medications) do not prevent Alzheimer's or age-related cognitive decline."
It is a simple switch in perspective but might have dramatically changed the message that most lay-readers take away.

I understand that many commercially driven entities are selling solutions with exaggerated claims about efficacy. We all appreciate the consumer advocacy the expert panel has provided in helping us understand how well certain supplements or brain games have been (or have not been) validated with solid science. However, it is important to stay balanced and to understand that certain approaches, although not proven, have growing evidence of benefits. When those approaches have no harmful side-effects and are supported by rock-solid common sense, it might be best to present them with some degree of optimism.

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