DSM highlights inadequacy of nutrition in the elderly and its implications for Alzheimer’s disease

Vitamins and polyunsaturated fats can play a vital metabolic role in supporting the normal functioning of the brain

The consequences of insufficient vitamin and nutrient supply on the brains of the elderly are highlighted by DSM in a new paper published in Nutrition1.

Malnourishment of the elderly has been linked to the progression of pathological events causing Alzheimer’s type dementia and DSM argues that to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease neuronal health must be maintained for as long as possible and concludes that the optimal supply of micronutrients plays a vital metabolic role in supporting the normal functioning of the brain.

The new research follows a landmark study, published in Neurology, which showed a strong correlation between low vitamin D levels and the risk of developing dementia, further demonstrating the critical importance of micronutrients in protecting the ageing brain.

A variety of vitamins and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been identified as having essential roles in the metabolism of vital components of a healthy brain and contribute to a myriad of processes, including the synthesis of cell membranes, neurotransmitters, amino acids, amines and steroids that support signal transduction and neuronal health, says DSM in the paper. Energy production in the brain is heavily dependent on several vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins C and A, which are essential co-factors in the metabolic processes responsible for the release of energy from carbohydrates.

As we age, the brain has altering requirements of essential nutrients including vitamins

There are currently 35 million patients being affected by Alzheimer’s type dementia worldwide, and the number is expected to quadruple by 2050. And it has recently been estimated that low nutrient, high energy food accounts for over 25% of total energy consumption in people older than 50 years in the US, and 50–70% of the residents in German nursing homes have been found to have an unhealthy level of energy intake. The paper has reviewed a variety of social, economic and health related factors that are having a negative impact on the supply of micronutrients to elderly people.

'The brain has exceptionally high metabolic activity and uses a large proportion of the body’s total nutrient and energy intake, making the brain susceptible to any shortage of nutrients,' explains Hasan Mohajeri, R&D Human Nutrition and Health, DSM Nutritional Products.

'As we age, the brain has altering requirements of essential nutrients including vitamins. Clinical research has shown that the ability to recall events in time and place declines from the age of 20. High nutrient food or targeted nutritional supplements are essential to maintain a healthy brain throughout our developmental and adult years.'

Professor Manfred Eggersdorfer, Senior Vice-President, Nutrition Science & Advocacy at DSM and Professor for Healthy Ageing at the University of Groningen, added: 'With the increase in prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in our ageing population, it is imperative that – in the absence of a cure – we endeavour to delay the onset of neurological degeneration.

'It is forecasted that degenerative neurological conditions will cost global economies trillions in patient healthcare costs over the next 35 years. We encourage healthcare professionals, governments and other key stakeholders to take note of the strong science in support of an alternative, nutritional approach to protecting against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease pathology.'


1. Mohajeri MH, Troesch B, Weber P. Inadequate supply of vitamins and DHA in the elderly: implications for brain aging and Alzheimer’s type dementia. Nutrition Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.06.016