Nutrition trial targeting memory loss

Jan 19 2018

Dr Rachel Wong and Professor Peter Howe

For overweight men and women aged 50 to 80, a nutritional supplement study being conducted at the University of Newcastle (UON) may help kick start those New Year’s resolutions to improve both physical and mental wellbeing.

The UON’s Clinical Nutrition Research Centre team, led by Dr Rachel Wong and Professor Peter Howe, has shown that adults carrying excess weight and doing insufficient physical activity have stiffer blood vessels in the brain, which is linked to memory loss.

“An early decline in memory increases the risk of dementia, which is now Australia’s second largest cause of death”, says Dr Wong. “By supplementing the diet with fish oil and curcumin we hope to prevent those consequences by targeting inflammation and improving the health of blood vessels in the brain.

Professor Howe believes the demands of a hectic lifestyle can make it difficult for people to maintain a balanced diet and find time to exercise.

“This contributes to chronic low-grade inflammation in  blood vessels, affecting their ability to regulate blood flow, and may lead to memory problems, poor concentration and mood disorders,” he says.

Adds PhD student Julia Kuszewski: “We believe those nutrients can indirectly benefit cognitive performance by improving the supply of blood to meet the demands of nervous tissue”.

The research team is looking for overweight adults (BMI between 25-35 kg/m2) between 50 and 80 years old (women must be post-menopausal), who do less than 2½ hours per week of planned exercise (walking not included) and are not currently taking fish oil or curcumin supplements, to enrol in the 16-week intervention trial.

They will test the effects of supplementation on inflammatory, circulatory, mental and mood outcomes and perceptions of wellbeing and chronic pain related to osteoarthritis. Blood brain flow will be measured non-invasively with ultrasound while volunteers undergo a series of mental tests.

Participants will take six capsules daily containing fish oil, curcumin, a combination of fish oil and curcumin or a placebo and will have four visits to the University of Newcastle’s Callaghan campus. A blood sample will be taken on two occasions.

Volunteers can phone Julia Kuszewski on (02) 4921 8616 or email for more information. 

* HMRI partners with the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.