Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive disorder characterized by:
- widespread loss of neurons (nerve cells)
- beta-amyloid deposits in the cerebral blood vessels
- development of plaques and
- abnormal accumulations of a protein called tau within the neuron, known as neurofibrillary tangles
These changes occur in the association area of the cerebral cortex, the middle and temporal lobes and an area called the hippocampus. They are accompanied by decreased concentrations of the chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) acetylcholine. The build-up of plaque and tau tangles might be the body’s protective response to chronic inflammation, although the research behind this idea is still developing.
Signs & symptoms
- Trouble remembering things; at first, only short-term memory may be affected
- Eventually, long-term memory is also impaired
- Mood or personality changes
- Trouble completing ordinary tasks
- Difficulty expressing thoughts and disorientation
- Unusual behaviour
Risk factors include:
- Advanced age
- Genetic predisposition and family member history
- Chronic diseases associated with vascular injury
- Inflammatory-inducing diet
- Heavy metal toxicity and other environmental toxins
- Chronic stress
- Sleep issues
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Hormone imbalances
- Head injury
- Dysbiotic gut microbiome
- Gum disease
It remains controversial as to whether aluminium deposits in the brain can cause Alzheimer’s disease. Aluminium has been seen in amyloid plaques but there remains no solid evidence of a causal link. Nonetheless, it seems prudent for healthy people to take steps to minimize exposure to this unnecessary and potentially toxic metal. It is unlikely, however, that avoidance of aluminium exposure after the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease could significantly affect the course of the disease.
One of the greatest risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease is obesity. People with a high BMI and the tendency to store fat around their waistline are 3.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. One of the biggest culprits for this link may be the consumption of sugar which ultimately predisposes the body to a state of chronic inflammation.
A diet high in healthy fats, whole grains, fish, lean proteins, nuts, fruits and vegetables has been shown to combat obesity, diabetes, and improve cognitive function. Berries, leafy greens like spinach and kale, as well as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts are an excellent source of antioxidants.
Keeping active outside of one’s work, both physically and mentally, during midlife may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. People with higher levels of non-occupational activities, such as playing a musical instrument, gardening, physical exercise, or even playing board games, are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s later in life, according to repeated studies.
Exposure to sunlight in the morning and a healthy, regular sleep pattern may protect against the development of Alzheimer’s, and slow its progress once established.
Nutritional supplement treatment options
Acetyl-L-carnitine – clinical trials have found that supplementing with acetyl-L-carnitine delays the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, improves memory, and enhances overall performance in some people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Antioxidants – antioxidant supplements (vitamin C or vitamin E) have been linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s. Research also shows that higher blood levels of vitamin E correlate with better brain functioning in middle-aged and older adults.
Vitamin B1 is involved in nerve transmission in the parts of the brain that deteriorate in Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, the activity of vitamin B1-dependent enzymes has been found to be lower in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. It is therefore possible that vitamin B1 supplementation could slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a naturally occurring compound present in the brain. It has been shown to improve mental function, such as the ability to remember names and to recall the location of frequently misplaced objects, in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Zinc – zinc deficiency has been shown to worsen cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s. Studies show that zinc supplementation reduces the prevalence and symptomatic decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
NADH has been found to improve mental function in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
B12/Folate – It is thought that a high homocysteine level in the brain causes neuronal damage leading to progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Research has found an association between Alzheimer’s disease and deficiencies of vitamin B12 and folic acid.
Botanical treatment options
Ginkgo – An extract made from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree is an approved treatment for early-stage Alzheimer’s disease in Europe. While not a cure, Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) may improve memory and quality of life and slow progression in the early stages of the disease. GBE may need to be taken for six to eight weeks before changes are noticeable.
Lemon balm – double-blind trials have shown that supplementation with an extract of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) significantly improve cognitive function and significantly reduce agitation, compared with a placebo, in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Sage – Sage appears to influence acetylcholine in the brain and may result in a significant improvement in cognitive function.
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Article contributed by Dr Tracy S Gates, DO, DIBAK, L.C.P.H., Consultant, Pure Bio Ltd. Copyright © Pure Bio Ltd 2023. All rights reserved. Pure Bio Ltd are a leading UK supplier of the highest quality PURE nutritional supplements, based in Horsham, West Sussex.
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