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Brain health top of mind at Milan congress

By Anne Bruce , 10-Jul-2014

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Mounting epidemiological evidence suggests nutrient-rich but low-calorie diets and intake of B vitamins, Vitamin D and antioxidants stave off cognitive decline, experts gathered in Milan said last week.

Some 78 delegates from firms including Nestlé, Danone and Pepsico, public sector bodies and leading universities attended the ILSI (International Life Sciences Institute) Europe workshop to discuss 'Nutrition for the Ageing Brain’.

They heard that avoiding health conditions such as obesity, anaemia, diabetes and heart disease in midlife, were key to keeping the brain healthy, as these contribute to faster brain ageing and increased risk of dementia.  

Peripheral needs

Nutrition recommendations for many countries reflected peripheral needs and may be too low for the specific nutrient demands of the brain, such as increased levels of glucose, omega-3 form DHA and Vitamin C.

Yet there was an acknowledgement that epidemiology and randomised clinical trials do not always match.

The congress heard of opportunities for nutritional products and optimal diets but clear preventive guidelines for cognitive function during ageing were needed, the experts said.

Exercising and micronutrient power

Data presented showed physical exercise increases micronutrient efficacy in the brain and could reduce the risk of early onset dementia, delegates heard.

It is becoming widely accepted that lifestyle changes are the best protection against dementia, creating a massive opportunity for nutritional products and optimal diets”, commented Professor  Keith A. Wesnes, member of the Organising Committee of the Workshop.

The event was organised in the light of ageing populations across the world. The number of people aged 60 years and over is expected to increase from 605 million in 2000 to 2 billion in 2050.


In addition 35.6 million people currently live with dementia worldwide – a figure which is expected to double in 20 years. In 2010, Alzheimer and dementia cost the global economy around $604bn.

Others attending included Mars, Mondelēz International, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, Arla Foods, Abbott Nutrition, Newtricious R&D.

ILSI Europe plans publish the paper based on the workshop in Q4, 2014.

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