A team of scientists have discovered what they believe is a link to 10 fats in our blood and Alzheimer's. This may mean a simple blood test can predict if you will develop the disease.
The findings, published today in Nature Medicine, compared blood samples of 53 people over the age of 70 who developed Alzheimer's with samples of 53 people who did not. They found changes in the levels of 10 lipids between the two groups could predict, with a 90 percent accuracy rate, who developed Alzheimer's or some form of dementia.
It's an exciting discovery, but it comes with several conditions. First of all, 106 people is not a large enough sampling to prove anything conclusively, and there will have to be several years of clinical trials before we know more.
There's also the question of who would want to be tested for a disease with such a grim prognosis for which there is no cure? (That said, the blood test could show a connection to the disease and fats in the blood that could make it easier to find a cure. Or not -- Alzheimer's is still very much a mystery, despite all the research.)
One doctor interviewed by NPR said that knowing you will develop Alzheimer's would give you the chance to plan for it accordingly. It may also lessen the stigma of having Alzheimer's as people with very early stage forms of the disease show that you can have it and still live a fairly normal life. But you'll also know what that normal life will soon become.
Alzheimer's is believed to affect 44 million people worldwide, a number that is expected to triple by 2050. Last Wednesday, a new study said that it might kill many more Americans each year that previously thought, making it the third-leading cause of death for people aged 75 or over instead of the sixth.