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Alzheimer's is a specific type of dementia.

A groundbreaking study by Israeli scientists has identified a significant ethnic disparity in the prevalence of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, show that Sephardic Jews are at higher risk for the disease than their Ashkenazi Jewish counterparts.

The study conducted by Beilinson Hospital’s Cognitive Neurology Department focused on patients who develop Alzheimer’s disease before the age of 65.


The researchers found that 64 percent of those who were diagnosed were from Sephardic Jewish backgrounds while 36 percent were from Ashkenazi backgrounds.

The hospital embarked on the study in 2017 after identifying a trend of ethnic disproportionality in younger patients suffering from dementia. The clinic’s meticulous analysis of hundreds of patient records unveiled a stark contrast in Alzheimer’s prevalence between non-Ashkenazic and Ashkenazic Jews.

For the purposes of the research, Sephardic Jews were defined as those who came from the Jewish diaspora in the Iberian Peninsula, the Middle East and North Africa. Ashkenazi Jews came from the Jewish diasporas in Northern and Eastern Europe.

The study garnered interest from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has invested more than $13 million in an expanded study to be completed by Beilinson Hospital, Boston University School of Medicine and three other collaborating medical centers in Israel — Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, Laniado Medical Center in Netanya, and Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.

It is hoped the extended research will lead to a potential revolution in ways to detect the disease earlier, drug development and overall patient care.

The next stage of the study will involve the review of an additional 2,000 cases of Israelis suffering from late-onset Alzheimer’s disease and 2,000 healthy controls, in the hope of identifying specific genes associated with the disease, enabling earlier detection and targeted interventions.

“We are extremely thankful to the US National Institutes of Health for supporting our efforts, which are likely to change the way we identify and treat Alzheimer’s patients in Israel and across the world,” said Beilinson Hospital Director of Cognitive Neurology Dr. Amir Glik.

“By pinpointing risk factors for Alzheimer’s within non-Ashkenazic populations, we can identify at-risk individuals preemptively and develop treatments to mitigate disease progression, allowing the enhancement of their quality of life, and greater dignity as the disease progresses.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.