The headline is misleading. The exercise program was equivalent to a very active control, namely health education with stretching. It is possible and perhaps likely that BOTH of the interventions were helpful. The health education program may have led to improvements in cognition or slowing of cognitive decline by improving participants' lifestyle choices as well as socialization. A waiting list control group might have teased this out.
Exercise Program, Supplements Show No Effect on Cognition in Elders — Physician’s First Watch
Exercise Program, Supplements Show No Effect on Cognition in Elders
By Amy Orciari Herman
Edited by David G. Fairchild, MD, MPH
Certain lifestyle interventions might not significantly affect cognitive function in older adults, suggest two JAMA trials.
In the first, over 1600 community-dwelling, sedentary elders at high risk for mobility disability were randomized to moderate-intensity exercise (walking, resistance training, and flexibility exercises) or health education. At 24 months, the groups were similar in cognitive function scores and in the incidence of mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
The second study included 3500 elders who underwent cognitive function testing as part of a trial assessing the effects of dietary supplements on progression to late age-related macular degeneration. Participants were randomized to take long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, lutein/zeaxanthin, both, or placebo. Over 5 years, the annual change in cognition scores didn't differ significantly with supplement use.
Thomas Schwenk, deputy editor of NEJM Journal Watch General Medicine, notes, "Nutritional supplements are not food, and studies on a wide range of conditions have failed to show any benefit from short-term supplementation of isolated nutrients. These latest results do not contradict the finding that long-term adherence to a Mediterranean or heart-healthy diet is beneficial to cognitive function. The same caveat applies to some extent for physical activity — the specific components of exercise that enhance cognitive function ... are poorly characterized."
Reader Comments (3)
Latest work in Archives of Neurology shows sticking to a diet rich in nuts, fish and vegetables significantly cuts the chance of developing Alzheimer's....Folate reduces circulating levels of the blood amino acid homocysteine which has been linked to Alzheimer's.
Note, Folate from food. Folate from supplements isn't even the same chemical. Homocysteine is prevalent in animal foods.
It's an interesting conclusion at the start of this report:
"Certain lifestyle interventions might not significantly affect cognitive function in older adults,"
Seriously? Or is it stating the obvious?
Maybe we should ask: what is not so obvious?
Not so obvious would be the statement that in both studies, the researchers did not find anything useful.
The exercise program vs education for sedentary older adults only demonstrated that the cause of their dementia is something different than their sedentary behavior. But no clue as to actual cause. No investigation of actual cause.
The nutritional supplement program has similar results. There was no analysis of what might be causing their Alzheimer's disease. Specific supplements were chose and given to all patients. There was no investigation of actual cause.
This is a valid tool for finding the cause of an illness - if it works. But if it doesn't work, it only proves that we don't understand.
to your health, tracy