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Summaries of Recent Alzheimer’s Disease Research
Anthony Chapdelaine, Jr., MD, MSPH, Exec. Dir./Sec. (The National Fund for Alternative Medicine)
- A recent preliminary study found the brains of young adults who had just exercised for ten minutes improved their brain’s ability to form and process new memories. Their scores on a recall test also improved. The researchers are now looking at older adults to see whether routine, light exercise will improve memory.
- In other recent research, adults over eighty years of age who tested to have memory as good as adults between 50 and 65 years of age indicated that their brains had fewer beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (both associated with dementia, especially Alzheimer’s Disease). They examined the DNA for these people and found that one gene (Map2k3) had changed more than is typical for people their age. Future research will investigate whether they can develop a drug to target this gene and thus decrease the risk for dementia.
- Several studies have implicated the cold-sore herpes virus (HSV-1) to the beginning of Alzheimer’s, especially for those people who have both the APOe4 gene and HSV-1. Other herpes viruses (HHV-6A and HHV-7) that cause the childhood rash roseola were connected to Alzheimer’s in a study of brains from a brain bank. Treatment for herpes sores using anti-virals such as acyclovir decreases the chance of getting Alzheimer’s years later according to another study.
- One recent study showed that people having one concussion increased their risk for developing Alzheimer’s Disease by 17% compared to those who have had no concussions. Having more concussions increased the risk even more. (Although the risk is increased, the actual chances are still quite small that someone having a concussion (or several) will develop Alzheimer’s.)
- In the late 1990’s, scientists at MIT studied mice that had p25 mutation (which causes neurological degeneration similar to Alzheimer’s Disease). These mice had severely impaired memory and learning capacity. The mice were placed in an enriched environment of frequently changed toys, introduction to new mice, and an exercise treadmill. The mice were now able to remember tasks they’d learned early in life. Their brains showed that the environmental stimulation had changed chemicals that ended up turning off the genetic effect of their “Alzheimer’s” gene: the environment caused an “epigenetic” change that overrode a gene that was supposed to cause dementia.
- Green tea extract (EGCG) binds to apoA-1 (apolipoprotein A-1) amyloid fibers in arterial plaques found in cardiovascular atherosclerosis (stroke and heart attackes) and brain amyloid plaques (Alzheimer’s Disease). The green tea extract makes the amyloid fibers smaller and more soluble (dissolvable) which decreases plaque formation. Green tea (but not black tea) provided the positive benefits (Townsend D, et al, “Epigallocatechin-3-gallate Remodels Apolipoprotein A-I Amyloid Fibrils into Soluble Oligomers in the Presence of Heparin,” J Biol Chem, 2018, 293(33), Pgs.12877-12893). Earlier studies showed the same risk reduction (more than 25% reduced risk of heart attack) for people drinking the most green tea daily compared with those drinking the least (Kuriyama S, et al, “Green Tea Consumption and Mortality Due to Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, and All Causes in Japan: The Ohsaki study,”JAMA, 2006, 296(10), 1255-1265). Brew your own green tea or take at least 250 mg of EGCG (one or two capsules of green tea extract) daily.
- Quercetin (found in fruits and vegetables) and theaflavin (found in black tea) are anti-inflammatory compounds that together eliminate old “senescent” and injured cells from the body. These older or injured cells, instead of being naturally eliminated from the body (known as “apotosis”) keep living and produce chemicals that increase the aging and deterioration of normal cells. This results in the inflammation that lies behind most chronic diseases such as dementia (including Alzheimer’s Disease), arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and many others. Research concludes that the best way to take quercetin is in a high dose wrapped within a phytosome (plant-based phospholipid compound) along with theaflavin (from black tea) just once a week.
- Increasingly, vitamin D3 is proving to be an important part of creating and preserving healthy brains and preventing neurodegeneration (like dementia). In a clinical trial in Pakistan, malnourished children were fed a high-energy diet for eight weeks. Some children were injected with high-dose vitamin D3 at weeks two and four. The children given vitamin D3 gained an average of 0.57 pounds (over half-a-pound) more than the children who did not receive vitamin D3. The vitamin D3 treated children also showed better language, motor skill, and overall development than the non-treated group. Vitamin D3 affected “brain development” and the central nervous system (Saleem J, et al, “High-dose vitamin D3 in the treatment of severe acute malnutrition: a multicenter double-blind randomized controlled trial,” Am J Clin Nutr, 2018, 107(5), Pgs. 725-733, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy027). Studies show that: 1. Vitamin D3 attaches to receptors in the brain and to help maintain healthy brain function and prevent brain deterioration (like Alzheimer’s Disease); 2. Vitamin D3 helps grow new brain cells; 3. Vitamin D3 helps decrease damage (disability, language or communication problems) from stroke. 4. Vitamin D3 helps clear amyloid from brain tissue (Alzheimer’s Disease); 5. Vitamin D3 level was shown to predict early dementia signs (decrease in working or short-term memory) thirteen (13) years later. The higher vitamin D3 levels gave increased protection from dementia later on in life; 6. Vitamin D3 helps protect against the shrinking (atrophy) of the brain that accompanies aging. We recommend keeping the vitamin D3 blood level between 80 and 100, and we recommend using Vitamin D3 orally (not the injected Vitamin D2 form). Reaching and maintain this level requires repeat blood tests and dose adjustments a few times over a year, and then once-a-year blood tests.
- AMPK is a metabolic regulator that reduces chronic inflammation, helps cells burn energy instead of storing it as fat, helps clean cellular “trash.” AMPK levels decrease as we age, which therefore increases the risk for chronic diseases of inflammation such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes and weight gain, autoimmune problems, several types of cancer, dementia and other neurological problems. Extracts from the Chinese herb Gynostemma pentaphyllum and the citrus bioflavonoid hesperidin help to activate AMPK in cells. Take approximately 500 mg of Gynostemma extract and 400 mg of hesperidin daily.
- Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) is an Indian herb traditionally used for its “adaptogenic” properties (normalizing or balancing body systems such as memory, mood, sleep) as well as supporting cardiovascular health, energy levels, metabolism, intelligence, immunity, stress, and other bodily functions. Animal laboratory and human clinical studies demonstrated that ashwaganda increases antioxidants in the brain, helping prevent cognitive decline and improve memory processes, including memory, decision making, attention and others (Practico D, et al, “Increase of Brain Oxidative Stress in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Possible Predictor of Alzheimer Disease,” Arch Neurol, 2002, 59(6), Pgs 972-976; Choudhary D, et al, “Efficacy and Safety of Ashwaganda Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Function,” J Diet Suppl, 2017, 14(6), Pgs 599-612).
- Folate (a B vitamin) helps lower inflammation and decrease the level of cardiac risk factor homocysteine. Folate helps improve markers of brain health, including inhibition of beta-amyloid (found in Alzheimer’s Disease). All the B vitamins work together and it is important that none of these vitamins are deficient. That usually requires supplementation to get the full dose of each B vitamin. For folate, the active form is best: 5-methyltetrahydrafolate (5-MTHF). One way to gauge your dose is by taking adequate B12 (methylcobalamin form that dissolves under the tongue), B6 (P5P form: pyridoxyl-5-phosphate), B2 (riboflavin) along with 5-MTHF (doses usually range between 400 mcg and 10,000 mcg daily).such that the homocysteine level measured in the blood is lower than the upper range of the “normal” limit. Also, research beginning in the early 1990s shows that absorbable CoQ10 plus 5-MTHF help protect against coronary artery disease.
- Laboratory animal studies show that spearmint tea contains dozens of polyphenol antioxidants (especially rosmarinic acid, which is also found in rosemary). These spearmint tea polyphenols promise to help grow new brain cells, increase brain neurotransmitters, and protect brain cells. Human studies show spearmint tea can help with mental focus, concentration, and attention, as well as help with sleep. Without caffeine! Drink as a tea or take capsules of standardized rosmarinic acid.