More than £760,000 given to Norwich university for Alzheimer’s research

Lead researcher Prof Anne Marie Minihane, from Norwich Medical School. Photo: UEA

Lead researcher Prof Anne Marie Minihane, from Norwich Medical School. Photo: UEA - Credit: UEA

More than £760,000 has been handed to the University of East Anglia (UEA) to explore a link between diet, activity and Alzheimer's disease.

The cash, from Alzheimer's Research UK, is part of more than £2m being invested in four innovative projects exploring ways to reduce the risk of dementia.

Researchers at UEA will look at ways to boost the adoption of a Mediterranean-style diet and increased physical activity – two lifestyle factors linked to a lower dementia risk. In Norfolk, some 14,000 people have dementia, but experts believe the figure will rise to 19,000 by 2025.

The team will also analyse medical data from over 9,000 adults to explore the relationships between cardiovascular health, diet, and brain health.

Lead researcher Professor Anne Marie Minihane, from Norwich Medical School, said the project is a collaboration between highly complementary research teams at UEA, Newcastle University, and the Universities of Birmingham and Aberdeen.

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She said: 'We will investigate for the first time the cognitive benefits of a Mediterranean style dietary pattern (MDP), with or without increased physical activity (PA), in UK adults.

'Our research programme will use data from over 9000 participants in two existing study groups, based in Norfolk and Aberdeen, who have been regularly assessed for over 50 years. We will also conduct a six-month intervention using MRI scans to look at the effects of a MDP and PA on brain function and volume, and cardiovascular risk, in those who self-report as experiencing some memory difficulties.'

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A Mediterranen diet is described as typically based on whole or minimally processed foods.

Prof Minhane added: 'We are grateful to Alzheimer's Research UK for this opportunity to identify effective strategies to improve brain function and mitigate the predicted doubling of dementia cases in the UK by 2050.'

The programme is due to run from January 2018 to mid-2020. Dr David Reynolds, chief scientific officer at Alzheimer's Research UK, added: 'While scientists continue to make progress towards more effective dementia treatments, it is crucial that we also explore ways people can reduce their risk of developing it in the first place.'

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