SUMMARY OF RECENT RESEARCH AND FOOD SUGGESTIONS FOR COMBATING ALZHEIMER'S (DEMENTIA)

Summarized By Rosemary Fisher

Reducing calorie and carbohydrate intake may affect Alzheimer’s disease (search) risk.

In a study published in the 2/05 The FJ Express professor Giulio Maria Pasinetti, MD,and his team used mice bred to have an Alzheimer’s-like brain disease. When the mice were 3 months old, the researchers divided them into two groups. One group ate a standard rodent diet. The other mice got 30 percent fewer calories. Calories were trimmed by reducing carbohydrates. Protein, fat, cholesterol, vitamins, and minerals were the same in both groups of mice.

After nine months, the mice brains were examined. The low-calorie, low-carb group “almost completely” avoided forming plaque in their brains, say the researchers. The same sort of plaque has been found in deceased Alzheimer’s patients’ brains. The low-carb, low-calorie mice also matured normally and maintained a healthy weight.

“This rather mild change in diet resulted in a remarkable measure of disease prevention,” says Pasinetti in the news release.

The mice on the standard rodent diet weren’t as fortunate. They got no dietary protection against their brain disease. They also gained weight.

The low-calorie, low-carb diet may have unleashed a helpful chemical chain reaction. The low-calorie, low-carb mice had higher levels of a chemical that may break down plaque’s building blocks. That could have thwarted the plaque components before they had a chance to aggregate and clog the brain.

The researchers don’t know that for sure. It’s possible that the low-calorie diet influenced the brain in other ways. But there’s enough reason to keep studying diet and Alzheimer’s, they conclude.

This is sumarized from an article by Miranda Hitti or Web MD. Click here for more details on the study

The recipes in my books are designed to be low calorie and low carb.  Many people who have used them report losing weight.   We may not be sure that following this diet will reduce Alzheimer's as Dr.Pasinett says “There is epidemiological evidence that humans who consume reduced calorie diets have a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.” And there are many other health benefits from reducing calories, that it can't hurt to try. 

Vitamin C and E Cut Alzheimer's Risk by 64%

A study published in the 2/04 issue of the Archives of Neurology involving 4,740 participants over five-years  ( the participants were aged 65 or older when the study began in 1995) showed those who had been taking vitamin supplements were at a 78 percent lower risk of the disease than those who had not. At the end of the study, another 104 participants had developed the disease, and the risk factor was 64 percent lower among supplement users. Vitamin E supplements taken contained up to 1,000 international units and  vitamin C supplements between 500 and 1,000 micrograms."These results are extremely exciting," study author Peter Zandi of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said. "Our findings suggest that vitamins E and C may offer protection against Alzheimer's disease when taken together in the higher doses available from individual supplements."

Zandi cautioned his was an observational study, and a full-scale controlled trial was needed.

Diet Rich in Foods with Vitamin E May Reduce Alzheimer's Disease Risk

A new population-based study of antioxidants, appearing in the June 26, 2002, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggests that a diet rich in foods containing vitamin E may help protect some people against Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The study is also noteworthy for its finding that vitamin E in the form of supplements was not associated with a reduction in the risk of AD. The latest in a series of reports on vitamin E and dementia, the study findings heighten interest in the outcome of clinical trials now underway to test the effectiveness of vitamin E and other antioxidants in preventing or postponing cognitive decline and AD.   You can see the full study at http://www.nia.nih.gov/news/pr/2002/0626.htm

Low Cholesterol and Low Blood Pressure's Impact on Preventing Dementia

Dr. Hugh Hendrie Professor at Indiana University School of Medicine is the lead author of a new land mark study published in the 02/14/01 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.  The findings from the study indicated that factors other than genetics, such as high blood pressure, high fat diet, high cholesterol appear to raise a persons risk of dementia and or Alzheimer's by 2-21/2 times.   You can see the full study on the JAMA web site, www.jama.com.

I was not surprised by the studies findings, in that it supported the numerous other studies I summarized in my newest book.  It gives hope to those looking to decrease their risk of getting dementia, and those hoping to slow its progression.  I have over 200 recipes in my 4 books that help in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

Thiamine and Alzheimer’s

My interest in thiamine, better known as vitamin B, started in 1990 when I read a study published in the Annals of Neurology. This study indicated that high doses of thiamine might be beneficial in treating the reduced mental abilities of people afflicted with Alzheimer's. I thought to myself how great if, as we age, we could even improve our mental abilities. At that time I never thought of anyone in our family as having Alzheimer’s. I was thinking that if we included foods high in thiamine in our diet we could improve our mental abilities as we aged. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The more I researched, the more I learned about thiamine.

Thiamine is essential in the manufacture of hydrochloric acid in our bodies thereby helping to absorb our minerals and vitamins. This is especially important as we age, as in our 40's we start to have a reduced hydrochloric acid function. We need a good hydrochloric function at all times, but especially as we age. It is important to note that at least 40 studies on thiamine and Alzheimer's have been published indicating its potentially positive role in dementia. If you are trying to get more thiamine into your diet, consider also including brewers yeast, wheat germ, whole grains, brown rice, yogurt and nuts. I have recipes in my books using these and other thiamine rich foods.

Magnesium and Brain Functioning

Magnesium is also necessary for brain function. According to the publication (October, 1995) Food and Nutrition Research, a publication of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Greenbelt, Md., it was reported that magnesium is the fourth most abundant element in the brain. A low level of magnesium overexcites the brain's neurons and results in less coherence. Good sources of magnesium are the following: defatted soy flour, whole grains, wheat bran, and nuts. As I stated before, I make sure I get at least 1/3 cup of defatted soy flour each day in my diet. It not only may help with mental functioning, but as my other articles and books indicate, it may help with preventing cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis

Vitamins and Alzheimer’s

According to a 1996 article in the Irish Medical Journal, 76, 488-490, it was noted that elderly patients (65 or older) with Alzheimer's had low B12 levels and were often deficient in B1, B2, B6, B12, and C. All this is a good reason to maintain a good diet rich in these vitamins. Again, defatted soy flour, brewers yeast, along with multiple fruits and vegetables, can help keep these vitamins in good supply in our daily diet. That is part of the rational for the 5 servings of fruit and vegetables from the USDA. It may seem difficult at first to change a lifetime of bad eating habits - but if we grow old in years and not in body, it is worth it. Change a little at a time. As you feel better, you will be motivated to change more.

Physical Fitness and Mental Functioning

As noted in a 1997 Age Page from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services National Institute on Aging, "Careful attention to physical fitness, including a balanced diet may go a long way to help people keep a healthy state of mind". Again, what do we have to lose to do this? Nothing. But we have everything to gain if we implement some of this research in our lifestyles.

Homocysteine, Folic Acid, B12 and Alzheimer's

CNN reported "Oxford University researchers (1998) have identified that Alzheimer's patients had higher than normal levels of homocysteine and lower than normal levels of folic acid and vitamin B12.  The finding were presented at a conference in the Netherlands.

You can see the rest of the story in the major dailies of 4/27/98. I especially recommend that you look the the AP account.  It's excellent.

I have been reviewing and summarizing the research on Alzheimer's and diet for some time now and this study adds support to what other research studies have indicated about the importance of folic acid and vitamin B12.

Although the research on the link between diet and Alzheimer's is still tentative, I feel strongly there is little harm to be had and great deal of potential benefit to be gained if people start adding foods high in folic acid, Vitamin B 12, thiamine, etc., to their diet. The worst that happens is they receive the benefits this type of diet offers for stroke, heart, cancer and osteoporosis. The best is that they also receive the potential benefits for Alzheimer's.

If you are interested in apply the findings to your diet, you will find that many of the recipes I use are high in folic acid and vitamin B12 and and thiamine.  This is particularly true of the recipes in which I use defatted soy flour. 

Cholesterol, A Clue To Alzheimer's?

You know that controlling cholesterol is a good way to prevent heart disease, but are you aware that cholesterol is also an emerging risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease?

Recent studies have found a connection between a high-cholesterol diet and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, a disease caused by the destruction of nerve cells in the brain, says Rudolph Tanzi, PhD, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, in his new book, Decoding Darkness: The Search for the Genetic Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease.

"We’re seeing more and more that what is bad for your heart is bad for your brain,’’ says Tanzi, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Genetics and Aging Unit, in a healthAtoZ interview. "Any risk factor linked to heart disease, you need to pay attention to it for Alzheimer’s as well.’’

What is the connection?

The causes of Alzheimer’s are unknown, but the symptoms are real – loss of memory and ability to reason and communicate, personality and behavioral changes, loss of bladder control and physical functions like walking and sitting up, and eventually, total dependence on a caregiver.

People with this devastating disease have an accumulation of a gummy substance called amyloid – made from a protein called A-beta – that gathers around nerve cells and in blood vessels in the brain, Tanzi says. Healthy cells throughout the body make amyloid, but in a person with Alzheimer’s, more amyloid is produced than the brain can handle, Tanzi says. The greater the amount of amyloid, the greater the degree of dementia (the loss of the ability to think, remember and reason).

"Think of your brain as a stereo whose music is memory," Tanzi says. "Your stereo works great for a lot of years. Eventually, as it ages, it occasionally short circuits. That’s normal decline, normal wear and tear. In Alzheimer’s, there’s a toxic invader in the stereo – one that actively destroys the wires that make up the circuit."

Research suggests that certain forms of cholesterol – a soft, waxy substance that your body needs to form cell membranes, tissues, and some hormones – promote the production of a protein that is the key component of amyloid in the brain, Tanzi says. Past beliefs that atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) plays a role in Alzheimer’s may prove to be true. "There’s also reason to expect that good cardiovascular flow has a detoxifying effect on the brain,’’ Tanzi says.

Pharmaceutical companies are trying to develop drugs that either inhibit the production of the A-beta protein, or enhance the excretion of the gummy amyloid invader from the brain, Tanzi says.

The same things that delay or prevent the onset of heart disease – antioxidants like Vitamins A, C, and E that fight cell-destroying "free radicals" in the body, anti-inflammatory medication, and exercise – may also be valuable in the fight against Alzheimer’s, Tanzi says. Hormone replacement therapy by postmenstrual women is not yet shown to be a conclusive method to delaying Alzheimer’s, but estrogen is good at controlling cholesterol, and therefore can be beneficial to the brain, Tanzi says.

Risk factors and prevention strategies

Alzheimer’s is hard to predict and diagnose, though the top two risk factors for the disease are not something that anyone can control. First, the older you get, the more likely you are to get Alzheimer’s. Of the 4 million Americans afflicted, one in five are ages 75-84, and nearly half are 85 or older.

Secondly, there’s a strong case that heredity plays a major role in your risk of Alzheimer’s. A study that tracked the lifetime risk of nearly 13,000 relatives of Alzheimer’s victims showed that people with two parents with the disease were five times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than people with two unaffected parents.

Alzheimer’s researchers have identified four major genes, three of which can cause Alzheimer’s in people under age 60, Tanzi says.

The third-leading cause of Alzheimer’s is head trauma, which in most commonly seen in aging boxers who experienced repeated blows to the head, Tanzi says. That revelation raises concerns about children using their heads to strike a soccer ball, a technique called heading. Tanzi believes parents should think twice about having their children use their head to hit a soccer ball.

"If you really want to be safe, don’t let them do it. It’s not worth risking the rest of their lives,’’ Tanzi says. "Common sense would argue that heading a heavy object coming in at a fast speed causes head trauma, and head trauma is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s."

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes there is insufficient data to recommend that young soccer players completely avoid heading the ball. However, the AAP says youth soccer coaches should minimize heading by players until more safety studies are done.

Stay mentally sharp

Just as exercise helps your heart stay healthy, your brain benefits from mental activity like reading and doing puzzles. Tanzi says dementia probably results from losing too many synapses, which are part of the intricate system used by brain cells to transmit information to other parts of the body. The more synapses you develop through intellectually stimulating activities, the more you can lose before suffering dementia, says Tanzi.

"Continuing to educate yourself and staying mentally active is probably a great way to protect yourself from Alzheimer’s disease. Watching TV and channel surfing doesn’t help,’’ Tanzi says.

If you’d like to know more about Alzheimer’s, check out these articles on healthAtoZ’s Alzheimer’s Condition Forum:
Understanding Alzheimer’s
Diagnosing Alzheimer’s

Treating Alzheimer’s

Causes and Risk Factors

ITHACA, N.Y., -- A long-term health study has shown that  Vitamin E and Vitamin C supplements have a "significant protective effect" against memory 
problems and loss of mental alertness, according to a Cornell University medical publication. The university's "Food and Fitness Advisor," published by Cornell's Weill Medical College and its 
Center for Women's Healthcare, cited the recent study on Vitamin E and Vitamin C supplements as providing a key way to protect memory. 

The study, published in the journal Neurology, found that the two vitamin supplements protect against "vascular dementia," or loss of cognitive function due to 
atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. 

"What's more," the Cornell publication reported, "among the study participants without dementia, those who took vitamin C or E performed significantly better on cognitive tests than did participants who did not take 
the supplements." 

The health newsletter listed antioxidant protection as one of the l0 best ways to protect memory. "Antioxidant nutrients such as Vitamins C and E help 
protect brain cells from free radicals, the toxic byproducts of oxidation," it said. 

Other research, in its early stages, has suggested that Vitamin E may "slow progression of functional decline in patients with moderately advanced Alzheimer's 
disease," the health letter reported, 

Among the "l0 ways to protect your memory," the Cornell publication cited in addition to antioxidant Vitamin E and Vitamin C supplements, a low-fat diet, 
physical activity, ongoing mental stimulation, stress reduction, B vitamins, fish and olive oil, ginkgo biloba, estrogen, and "good relationships."

Gosseyn                                   

 

For more specific research summaries on how nutrition affects dementia, see (A sampling of research studies from the books)

 

HEALTHY EATING SITE INDEX

This index provides a list of further research summaries and recipes on some of the many ways foods can help prevent or reverse specific conditions. Just click on the ones that are of interest to you.

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Rosemary C. Fisher.
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