Dementia Grants Program to provide new support for 18 research projects

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The Dementia Australia Research Foundation has announced $2.4 million in new grants for 18 projects.

The projects include examining why people living in rural and regional areas are three to five times more likely to develop dementia than their city-dwelling counterparts and what might be done to reverse this trend.

Dr Ashleigh Smith from the University of South Australia (UniSA) said the Mid-Career Research Fellowship, worth $365,000, would enable her team to create dementia prevention strategies specifically tailored for rural and regional communities.

“We know there are 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia including smoking, diet, exercise and social isolation and we have collected good data on how these risk factors impact people living in Australian cities. This Fellowship will enable us to go to regional and rural areas to collect data around these risk factors,” said Dr Smith.

Dr Smith said later parts of the project would utilise UniSA’s rural campuses to partner with the communities of Mt Gambier, Whyalla and Port Lincoln in South Australia to design a targeted dementia prevention toolkit for rural communities.

“People living in rural and regional communities don’t want city-based solutions. By co-designing the toolkit with people living in rural and regional communities, we will ensure the toolkit is acceptable and aimed at extending healthy life and delaying dementia onset in Australians who live outside major cities.”

A grant of $75,000 will enable Dr Alby Elias from The University of Melbourne to study whether intermittent fasting can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Intermittent fasting, or time-restricted eating, involves not eating any food for periods of between 12 and 24 hours between meals. It has been shown to have several health benefits, including improved blood vessel health and reduced inflammation.

“Intermittent fasting also has a range of benefits for several health conditions, including obesity, arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure. But so far no human studies have been conducted looking at fasting and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr Elias.

“Animal studies have demonstrated that intermittent fasting was associated with removal of the beta-amyloid protein from the brain, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.”

The Chair of the Dementia Australia Research Foundation, Professor Graeme Samuel AC, said, “The diversity of projects selected shows we have a very exciting future for dementia research.

“With dementia affecting almost 50 million people worldwide, research into dementia is now more urgent than ever.”

Since 2000, the Dementia Grants Program has provided almost $30 million in funding to support more than 350 projects.