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Alzheimer's, nutrition, smallpox, and other 'Human Health Frontiers' addressed by AAAS speakers

Proof of a connection between Alzheimer's Disease and high cholesterol levels could change the way doctors counsel their older patients, researcher Rudolf Tanzi reported October 15 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

If additional evidence confirms the Alzheimer's-cholesterol connection, genetic testing of patients with high cholesterol levels may help doctors diagnose Alzheimer's at earlier stages, said Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.

"In the past, I would have said no to the test, but if it can be shown that high cholesterol predisposes a person to Alzheimer's, I'd be willing to suggest testing for Alzheimer's risk," Tanzi said during the AAAS Advancing Science seminar. "That's empowering you to change your lifestyle. If you can't empower someone, especially with a test for Alzheimer's, then you might make someone falsely confident or falsely anxious."

Tanzi's update on the brain disease affecting 4 million Americans was presented during the AAAS seminar focusing on "Human Health Frontiers."

For more information on Tanzi's presentation, contact the AAAS Office of Public Programs at (202) 326-6431, or his office (c/o Donna Burtanger) at (617) 432-3991.

Nutrition news that turns the food pyramid on its head, research efforts to combat bioterrorism, and new approaches for addressing chronic human conditions such as depression, substance abuse, cancer and spinal cord injury, were also discussed.

A summary of presentations by topic follows, below. (Journalists, please cite the AAAS Advancing Science seminar as the source of this information):

NUTRITION: With advice that turns the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food pyramid upside down, a Harvard University scientist urged consumption of certain oils as a foundation of all healthy diets, and placed pasta and white rice, alongside candy, cake and ice cream.

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