NIH: No Proven Way to Prevent Alzheimer's

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It was discouraging news for seniors who hoped they could exercise, make diet changes, or stay mentally alert enough to ward off Alzheimer's disease.

CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports a panel of experts at the National Institutes of Health reviewed the science and bluntly concluded there is no proven way to prevent or even slow down the onset of Alzheimer's.

"There really isn't a lot that we have to offer right now for therapies that can prevent this disease," said Dr. Evelyn Granieri, chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Aging in the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. "We think that other people need to know this."

The panel was especially tough on supplements like ginko biloba or fish oil - with one panelist calling them garbage, and the others saying they just don't work.

"The evidence is inadequate to conclude that any are effective," said Dr. Donald Silberberg, of the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.

But while those are the facts, some groups called the message too negative. The Alzheimer's Association, which still touts "brain healthy diet" as a prevention strategy, says most current research does link heart disease and hypertension with the increased risk of Alzheimer's.

So even if you can't prevent Alzheimer's, the group says a better diet and healthy heart improves your odds.

"Reduction of your risk of heart disease in middle life even in late life, can help you reduce your risk of cognitive decline," said Maria Carrillo, Director of Medical and Scientific Relations, Alzheimer's Association.

Even the experts who say you can't prevent Alzheimer's agree a better diet could lower the chance of getting it. A family doctor summed it up by saying: don't take the blueberries away from Grandma.

  • Wyatt Andrews
    Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.