May 052010
 

Based on current evidence, the recent conclusion reached by a National Institute of Health panel of experts, is statistically 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.

This is a case where I think it is worthwhile to translate the panel’s conclusion.

Below is a quote from one of the panel experts; this was one of the direct comments that generated the nihilistic 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.”

There is a great deal of work ahead of us in better understanding of the variables that can affect cognitive aging and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Well-planned, long-term, placebo-controlled studies are needed to definitively answer these questions. Until then, we continue our work towards this goal.

Michael S. Rafii, MD, PhD

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