There has been news in recent weeks of two tests that appear to positively identify Alzheimer’s disease long before its symptoms appear: PET scans of Alzheimer’s plaque in the brain and tests of spinal fluid.
But as The New York Times pointed out in a Page One story Sunday, scientists still don’t know how to prevent the dreaded malady’s onset. The headline on The Times story, “Years Later, No Magic Bullet Against Alzheimer’s,” opens with a “court” that the National Institutes of Health sponsored last spring.
The court, which included 15 scientists and input from Duke University, was gathered to judge, based on evidence, which treatments, foods, vitamins and behaviors can prevent Alzheimer’s disease or slow down its progression.
The bottom line, according to The Times, was this: “Currently, no evidence of even moderate scientific quality exists to support the association of any modifiable factor (such as nutritional supplements, herbal preparations, dietary factors, prescription or nonprescription drugs, social or economic factors, medical conditions, toxins or environmental exposures) with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”
The flaw with much of the current information about what can prevent Alzheimer’s is that there is no evidence to back it up, or the research has flaws, the NIH court found.
“Most studies observed people who happened to use or not use a possible preventive measure and then determined whether they got Alzheimer’s or not,” The Times said. “Such studies, known as observational ones, are not the gold standard, like those in which people are randomly assigned to take a pill or do something like exercise, or not. Observational studies are useful in generating hypotheses but are not proof.”
The article ends with a heart-breaking story about a married couple, Elise and Bill Schoux. She is 53 and healthy, while he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 70. Bill had lead a healthy life, exercises, and had an interesting job that took him around the world.
When they learned Bill had Alzheimer’s, Elise told The Times, “For two weeks, we were at a loss, we would burst into tears. How could this be?”