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Alzheimer News 1/26/2005
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Fruits and Veggies, Fitness and Fun Help Old Dogs Learn

Aging beagles have an easier time learning new tricks if they eat lots of fruits and vegetables, get regular exercise and play with other dogs and interesting toys, according to a report in the January Neurobiology of Aging.

The combination of enhanced diet, fitness and fun appears to have a bigger impact than either diet or fitness and fun alone, although dogs participating in either single aspect of the program also performed better than those in the standard care control group.

"This study adds another note of optimism to a growing body of research suggesting a healthy lifestyle may help maintain brain health as we age," says William H. Thies, Ph.D., Alzheimer's Association vice president, medical and scientific affairs. "Dogs are not people, but they are smart and social and can experience age-related declines in learning and memory. The combination of diet, exercise and mental and social stimulation appears to have a powerful effect in staving that off."

Consumers will find the latest research about lifelong cognitive vitality reflected in the Alzheimer's Association Maintain Your Brain® campaign, a public health and education initiative to help Americans understand lifestyle choices based on diet, exercise, socialization and mentally stimulating activity that can make brain health part of their overall goals for healthy aging.

In the beagle study, researchers divided 48 older dogs ages 7 to 11 into four groups. One group received dog food fortified with tomatoes, carrots, citrus fruits, spinach, vitamins E and C, and dietary supplements but no special exercise or play opportunities. The second group received standard dog food along with a program of regular exercise, socialization with other dogs and access to stimulating toys. The third group received the enhanced diet combined with exercise, social opportunities and toys. The fourth group served as a control, receiving standard care and regular dog food.

Over the two years of the study, researchers tested the dogs on a series of increasingly difficult learning tasks, including solving complex problems to find treats. Overall, the dogs on the combination of enhanced diet, exercise, socialization and toys outperformed the other groups, although those who received any intervention performed better than the control group.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the agency of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) leading the federal research effort on aging and Alzheimer's disease.

For more information, please see:

  • The Alzheimer's Association Maintain Your Brain® campaign

 

Alzheimer's Association

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Formed in 1980, the Alzheimer's Association is the world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research.