By Kathleen Fackelmann, USA TODAY
Experts predict Alzheimer’s will quadruple by mid century rising from 4.5 million cases to 16 million cases by 2050
Shannon Adkins eats fish — lots of fish — for the most powerful of reasons: She’s determined to avoid her mother’s fate.
Adkins is only 32. But her mother, Suzie Smith, was diagnosed with alzheimer’s disease at age 52. Five years later, Smith can’t feed or dress herself.
Could something as simple as eating fish save Adkins from a disease that is progressively destroying her mother’s mind? Well, there’s fresh evidence that fish — often dubbed “brain food” — also may be something far more potent: brain-saving food. People who frequently eat fish may protect themselves from Alzheimer’s, according to separate scientific studies by top researchers at Tufts University in Boston, Rush University in Chicago and the University of California-Los Angeles.
Fish is fast becoming to Alzheimer’s candidates what an aspirin-a-day regimen is to many heart patients. This movement toward fish already has started to change the way some Americans live their daily lives. It’s changing the way many Americans shop and eat. (The purported health benefits of fish have helped push seafood consumption to record levels, going from 15.6 pounds consumed per person in 2002 to more than 16.3 pounds consumed in 2003.) And it has empowered people such as Adkins to help themselves not by visiting the clinic or hospital, but the fish aisle of the local grocery store.
Increasingly, the experts now also say that a healthful diet, one that includes fish, might help delay or even prevent the dreaded disease that killed such American icons as former president Ronald Reagan, boxer Sugar Ray Robinson and actress Rita Hayworth. This disease also unhinges the lives of everyday Americans, like those of Adkins and her mother.
Adkins first realized that something was seriously wrong with her mom in 1997, when Smith, who was driving on a multilane highway, suddenly took her hands off the wheel. Adkins, who was sitting in the passenger seat, had to steer the car to safety.