Alzheimer's & Dementia
Alzheimer's disease affects more than 5 million Americans in 2013. Studies are showing that specific nutrients can help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease as well as help slow down the effects of Alzheimer's on memory loss.
Whether nutrients and supplements can be helpful for Alzheimer's is highly debatable. Researchers affiliated with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine analyzed the results of several large randomized clinical trials in 2017. They reported that there appear to be three main factors that may reduce the risk of Alzheimers.184
- Get physical activity. Regular activity such as a long vigorous walk most days of the week.
- Normalize blood pressure. Although reduceing hypertension only slightly reduces the risk of dementia, it does improve mild cognitive impairment.
- Be mentally active. Learn new things, engage in activities that challenge the brain and stimulate curiousity, such as reading, a new language, a new hobby such as learning a musical instrument.
According to a 2011 article in Lancet, as well as more recent studies, the best prevention for Alzheimer's is both physical and mental exercise. 2015 research indicates a 53% decreased risk with the MIND diet
- If you suffer from chronic insomnia, talk with your practitioner about how to improve sleep quality.
- Follow the MIND diet with whole grains, vegetables, blueberries, nuts, and avoid or limit red meat, butter, cheese, fried/fast foods, processed foods.
- Exercise your mind daily with puzzles and learning new things.
- Get daily exercise, at least a long walk every day. Getting enough exercise is essential because it influences other conditions such as your weight and blood pressure.
- It has also been found that some nutritional deficiencies may contribute to or mimic Alzheimer's
Clinical trials and double-blind research have indicated that there may be connections between nutritional deficiencies and Alzheimer's. In some cases, nutritional supplementation may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and/or delay its progression. See the nutrition summary and nutrition discussion.
Symptoms of Alzheimer's include a pattern of forgetfulness, short attention span, difficulty in performing routine tasks, language problems, disorientation, poor judgment, problems with thinking, misplacing things, depression, irritability, paranoia, hostility, and lack of initiative.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota have been able to detect signs of Alzheimer's in mice even before signs of beta amyloid plaque had developed in the brain. They looked at patterns of light that reflected from the retina and noted distinct patterns associated with Alzheimer's. It is a new technology that is extremely promising for human trials.
Other eye tests reported in 2014 identify the presence of beta-amyloid protein by way of colorants that bind to the protein, making it florescent. This test can also identify the condition by looking at the retina.
A test developed by a neurologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, called the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination is a four page test that can be self-administered at home in about 10-15 minutes. It is designed to catch symptoms in earlier stages.
In 2012 Lancet published an article that using brain imaging and evaluating genetic markers, potential Alzheimer's could be detected in teens/20s longer before they show symptoms of Alzheimer's.181
- 2016 research finds that poor sleep (not enough deep sleep) appears to be a cause, not a result of Alzheimer's.
- 2016 research also finds that chronic inflammation in the body appears to be a cause, not a result, of developing Alzheimers. Learn more about inflammation and foods that cause inflammation and that cannabinoids may be helpful in reducing such inflammation.
- 2015 research suggests that disturbed sleep and circadian rhythm disruption may be tied to Alzheimer's development. 176 Abnormal beta-amyloid accumulations in the brain appear to be linked to disrupted deep sleep (non-REM sleep) patterns, although it is unknown whether the accumulation is caused by such disruption or a side-effect. It does, however, open a new channel of research.177 Two sleep studies at the University of California, involving almost 6,000 people over five years, determined that people who had a hard time falling asleep were more likely to develop mild memory problems that sometimes develop into Alzheimer's.
- 2015 research found an association between Alzheimer's and glaucoma. While such research in the past has been inconclusive, a recent larger (nearly 8000 patients) study finds an association.
- 2014 research connects declining cognitive functioning to irregularities in homocysteine levels.
- 2013 research connects Alzheimer's and cerebrovascular disease.
- Scientists believe that genetic factors may be involved.
- There is a connection between Alzheimer's and levels of environmental pollutants. Researchers find that high levels of lead, mercury, aluminum, cadmium, arsenic, some pesticides, and metal-based nano-particles have the ability to increase beta-amyloid plaque, tau protein, and alpha-synuclein whiich are associated with Alzheimer's.179
- High levels of a protein called beta-amyloid has been found in much younger family members where there is a history of Alzheimer's, decades before symptoms appear.174 New research is testing a vaccine that appears to trigger the body's immune defence against beta-amyloid.175
- A protein called apolipoprotein E (ApoE) may be important. Everyone has ApoE, but the function of ApoE in the brain is not well understood. One form of the protein seems to protect a person from AD, and another form seems to make a person more likely to develop the disease.
- Scientists have found aluminum, zinc, and other metals in the brain tissue of people with Alzheimer's.
- Some scientists think that a virus may cause the disease.
- Alzheimer's is most likely to be caused several factors that act differently in each person.
- Women appear to be more vulnerable to Alzheimer's.
- A ten year Canadian study finds that people who live near major roads where there is more air pollution are up to 12% more likely to develop dementia, and the risk is greater the longer they live there. The scientists tracked about 6.6 million people living in Ontario, Canada, finding that people living within 50 meters of a major road were more likely to have developed the condition.182 This concurs with earlier research.
Note: certain vitamin deficiencies and other conditions can mimic alzheimer's disease symptoms including:
- Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause nerve damage including short-term memory loss, sometimes accompanied by low-back pain, fatigue, burning feet or sore tongue. Even so, blood tests may appear normal.
- Vitamin B1 deficiency can give rise to memory problems and mental imbalances, Diuretics can aggravate B1 deficiencies.
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid) levels are tied to depressed mood.
- A decline in estrogen production among menopausal females can result in depression and may be linked to the development of dementia.
- A stroke can mimic Alzheimer's disease.
- Parkinson's, a disorder featuring resting tremors, gait disorders, and slowed movement, may sometimes first manifest as amnesia.
- Brain dysfunction can also be caused by a thyroid disorder.
- A number of studies connect Alzheimer's and diabetes
- Dementia is also connected to mid-life vascular conditions, whose risk factors include high BMI, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.183.
Researchers have reported a strong link between Alzheimer's and glaucoma - Alzheimer's patients are more likely to develop glaucoma.180
Although conventional treatments do not stop or slow progression of Alzheimer's, medications such as tacrine, donepezil, and rivastigmine are designed to bring some short-term memory impairment relief by slowing down the breakdown of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter in the brain). Some doctors may also recommend a low daily dose of aspirin.
- The drug Aricept can, to varying degrees, slow the symptoms of dementia by supporting dying brain cells.178
- The drug Solanezumab is designed to attack deformed amyloid proteins. An 18 month trial failed, but it may be helpful for patients with early diagnosis. It's not really a break-through, but it is hopeful.178
- While some clinical trials found that the antibody therapy was not helpful, a new trial with aducanumab is promising.
- Antioxidant Supplements
- Vitamins C & E
- Vitamin D3: and combination of Vitamin D3 and Curcumin
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Olive leaf extract
These are other nutrients that might be related or helpful.
- B Vitamins: B1, B12, Folic Acid
- Phosphatidylserine: Lecithin
- DMAE (2-dimethylaminoethanol)
- CoEnzyme Q10
- DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone)
- Resveratrol may have possibilities - see research
Botanical Treatment Options
In addition, there are a variety of botanical treatment options.
Research & Footnotes
See footnotes and research on which the above discussion is based.
174. Eric M. Reiman, et al, Brain imaging and fluid biomarker analysis in young adults at genetic risk for autosomal dominant Alzheimer's disease in the presenilin 1 E280A kindred: a case-control study, The Lancet Neurology, Volume 11, Issue 12, Pages 1048 - 1056, December 2012
175. Bengt Winblad, et al, Safety, tolerability, and antibody response of active A-immunotherapy with CAD106 in patients with Alzheimer's disease: randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, first-in-human study Lancet Neurology, Volume 11, Issue 7, Pages 597 - 604, July 2012
176. Circadian clock disruption in neurodegenerative diseases: cause and effect?, Musiek, ES, Frontiers in Pharmacology, Feb. 2015, 6:29
177. Beta-amyloid disrupts human NREM slow waves and related hippocampus-dependent memory consolidation, Mander, Bryce A. et al, Nature Neuroscience 18, 1051-1057
178. Early signs that drug 'may delay Alzheimer's decline', Gallagher, July, 2015, BBC.com news
179. M. Chin-Chan, Environmental pollutants as risk factors for neurodegenerative disorders: Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases., Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, April, 2015.
180. Massimo Cesareo, et al, Association Between Alzheimer's Disease and Glaucoma: A Study Based on Heidelberg Retinal Tomography and Frequency Doubling Technology Perimetry, Frontiers in Neuroscience, December, 2015.
181. Eric M. Reiman, MD, et al, Brain imaging and fluid biomarker analysis in young adults at genetic risk for autosomal dominant Alzheimer's disease in the presenilin 1 E280A kindred: a case-control study, The Lancet Neurology, December, 2012.
182. Hong Chen, PhD, et al, Living near major roads and the incidence of dementia, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis: a population-based cohort study, The Lancet, January, 2017.
183. R.F. Gottesman, A.L. Schneider, et al, Association Between Midlife Vascular Risk Factors and Estimated Brain Amyloid Deposition, Journal of the American Medical Association, April, 2017.
184. Preventing Cognitive Decline and Dementia: A Way Forward. (2017). The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine. Retrieved Mar 6 2019 from http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/reports/2017/preventing-cognitive-decline-and-dementia-a-way-forward.aspx.