Dementia is a group of degenerative diseases typically affecting the cognitive abilities of the elderly population. According to the World Health Organization, the estimated proportion of the general population aged 60 and over with dementia at a given time is between 2 to 8 per 100 people. Currently, there is no cure and, with rising numbers of elderly people, there is a pressing need for funding in dementia research.

The EU-funded research project LIPIDIDIET is developing tools to stop cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The research builds on the previous project known as LIPIDIET, which supported the hypothesis that certain lipids (organic compounds of fat) could reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

The current project goes one step further by combining the current medical therapy for Alzheimer’s disease with nutrition. This comprises a lipid-based diet that could reduce the risks associated with Alzheimer’s and stabilise cognitive performance in aging.
The research team is developing dietary products and evaluating diets to maintain and support normal cognitive function in healthy aging. This involves a cocktail of ingredients containing as main component an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil being tested in patients with mild cognitive impairments as a means to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

As a supplement, researchers are also providing diet and life-style based healthcare advice such as daily menus for the elderly. “As no specific drugs are being taken, diet-related approaches typically offer a very low risk of undesired side effects, are cost efficient and accessible,” explains LIPIDIDIET project coordinator, Professor Tobias Hartmann from Saarland University in Germany. “Results are promising, indicating that this approach is indeed effective and safe,” he adds.

Findings from a LIPIDIDIET study of patients with early dementia were presented at the International Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Congress in March 2013. The study assessed whether cognitive performance was maintained by taking the nutrition drink containing Fortasyn Connect®. According to Professor Hartmann, first results in patients with mild dementia show that treatment for 48 weeks lead to a “continuous and significant increase in memory performance”. Further studies are needed to verify and establish its effectiveness in dementia prevention, which are soon to be completed by the research team.

LIPIDIDIET project involves 18 research partners whose work and studies span a diverse range of areas, from basic neuroscience and chemistry to food production.

The primary industrial partner involved in the project is nutrition company Danone/Nutricia. The company is expected to commercialise potential dietary products resulting from the research.

This innovation was made possible by Israel’s continued participation in the official Horizon 2020 fund, managed in Israel by ISERD part of The Israel Innovation Authority (Formerly the Office of the Chief Scientist and MATIMOP). The initiative has taken Israeli R&D to the next level with the help of ground-breaking collaboration between scientists in Israel and Europe, as well as essential funding and support.

Project details
Project acronym: LIPIDIDIET
Participants: Germany (Coordinator), Hungary, Israel, Netherlands, Sweden, Czech Republic, Finland
FP7 Proj. N° 211696
Total costs: € 7 995 577
EU contribution: € 5 899 843
Duration: August 2008 – March 2015