Scientists will unveil research this week that suggests a simple change in diet could protect millions of people from Alzheimer's disease, British newspapers reported Sunday.
The reports said the international team believes a simple supplement of folic acid, which is found in many green vegetables and can be taken as a vitamin tablet, could shelter potential sufferers against the debilitating disease.
"It is a very promising finding," the Sunday Telegraph quoted one of the research team, professor Helga Refsum of Norway's Bergen University, as saying. "We need something to go for, and the idea of reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease by diet is a promising hypothesis."
Refsum stressed that the results had so far only revealed an association, not a direct cause and effect, and pointed out that many older people suffer from conditions that can be exacerbated by taking folic acid.
The research is to be unveiled at an international scientific conference in the Netherlands this week.
The newspapers said the study of hundreds of British patients revealed a link between Alzheimer's and high levels of a chemical produced by the body that is known to be affected by diet.
The discovery, made by an international team co-ordinated at Oxford University, opens the way to a simple blood test for identifying those most at risk.
It also raises the possibility of avoiding the disease altogether by cutting levels of a compound known as homocysteine. This could be brought about by increasing a patient's intake of folic acid.
The disease, which causes progressive memory loss, is the fourth most common cause of death in the Western world.
"If the interpretation being placed on these results is correct, it is potentially dynamite," the Sunday Times quoted one senior scientist as saying.