By Jennifer Lilonsky ( | First Posted: Feb 15, 2013 04:32 PM EST

Patients with Alzheimer's and dementia are seen during a therapy session inside the Alzheimer foundation in Mexico City April 19, 2012. Alzheimer's is a progressive, degenerative disease that robs people of memory, reasoning and the ability to communicate. About 24 million people worldwide have the disease according to the World Health Organization. In Mexico, 600,000 Mexicans out of 9 million adults over the age 60 suffer from Alzheimer's, according to the Institute of Geriatrics (INGER). Picture taken April 19, 2012. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido (MEXICO - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY) (Photo : Reuters )

A new study conducted by the University of Southern California reveals that a combination of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D could be an effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

The low-protein diet was found to stop progression of the disease in the mice that were part of the study.

"Although the new study is in mice, it raises the possibility that low protein intake and low IGF-I may also protect from age-dependent neurodegeneration," said Valter Longo, a professor at USC and the study's author.  

IGF-1 is a growth hormone that has been associated with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and aging, according to EmaxHealth.

Consuming a low-protein diet decreases the level of this growth hormone. Researchers found that humans who are found to be deficient in IGF-1 had lower occurrences of cancer and diabetes.

These findings led to the new study that aims to determine whether a low-protein diet can help improve Alzheimer's disease.

As part of the study, researchers gave mice a low-protein diet with the addition of amino acids for four weeks.

And the mice that were in advanced stages of the disease displayed signs of memory improvement as compared to the control group of mice.

The mice that were given a low-protein diet were able to navigate a maze and had fewer damaged brain neurons.

But researchers, while they recognized the potential for this special diet to help the increasingly prevalent disease, also note that a low-protein diet may not be safe for all elderly patients.

Experts warn that if this diet were to be used in humans, it would have to be under close supervision of a doctor.


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