For Your Benefit
For and about Hawaii's military

among VA research

Question: What is the latest Department of Veteran Affairs research on Alzheimer's disease?

Answer: Researchers with the VA and the University of California at Los Angeles found that a diet high in docosahexenoic acid, or DHA -- an omega-3 fatty acid found in relatively high concentrations in cold-water fish -- dramatically slowed the progression of Alzheimer's disease in mice. Specifically, DHA cut the harmful brain plaques that mark the disease.

The results appear in the March 23 online edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.

Unlike many studies with mice, this study points to the benefits of a therapy that is easily available and already touted for other medical conditions. DHA, either from food sources such as fish and soy, or in fish-oil supplements, is recommended by many cardiologists for heart health based on scores of previous studies.

The new study involved older mice genetically altered to develop Alzheimer's disease. The researchers fed one group of mice DHA-fortified chow. The control mice ate a normal or DHA-depleted diet.

After three to five months -- the equivalent of several years in human biology -- the high-DHA group had 70 percent less buildup of amyloid protein in the brain. This sticky protein makes up the plaques, or patches, that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's.

Food sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish such as salmon, halibut, mackerel and sardines, as well as almonds, walnuts, soy and DHA-enriched eggs.

Last year this same research team identified another nutrient that appears to combat Alzheimer's plaques in mice: curcumin, one of the spices that make up curry powder.

Q: Is the 2005 VA benefits handbook available yet?

A: The VA recently released the 2005 edition of the "Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents" handbook. The 120-page handbook details federal payment rates and outlines a variety of programs and benefits for American veterans.

Most of the nation's 25 million veterans qualify for some VA benefits, ranging from health care to burial in a national cemetery. Additionally, veterans may be eligible for programs providing home loan guaranties, educational assistance, training and vocational rehabilitation, income assistance pensions, life insurance and compensation for service-connected illnesses or disabilities.

The handbook may be downloaded for free at www.va.gov./opa/feature.

If you have questions about your benefits as a veteran, call Fred Ballard at the Veterans Affairs at 433-0049 or visit the VA Web site at www.va.gov/hawaii or the Star-Bulletin at 529-4747.

Gregg K. Kakesako, who covers military affairs for the Star-Bulletin, can be reached by phone at 294-4075 or by e-mail at gkakesako@starbulletin.com.

See also: In The Military

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