Prevention Archives

Overeating and Memory Loss

A recent study shows that overeating more than 2,100 calories a day nearly doubled the risk of memory loss or mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The study concerned those over 70 years old and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans April 21 to April 28, 2012. According to study author Yonas E. Geda, MD, MSc, with the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, “We observed a dose-response pattern which simply means the higher the amount of calories consumed each day, the higher the risk of MCI.”

According to Wikipedia, MCI is a brain-function syndrome involving the onset and evolution of cognitive impairments beyond those expected based on the age and education of the individual, but which are not significant enough to interfere with their daily activities. It is often found to be a transitional stage between normal aging and dementia.

For this investigation, they turned to the Mayo Clinic Study on Aging, an ongoing, population-based cohort study in Olmsted County, Minnesota. The analysis involved 1233 nondemented participants aged from 70 to 89 years; 1070 patients were cognitively normal, and 163 had MCI.

The subjects noted the amount of calories they ate or drank in a food questionnaire. They were divided into three equal groups based on their daily caloric consumption.

  • One-third consumed between 600 and 1,526 calories per day.
  • One-third consumed between 1,526 and 2,143 calories per day.
  • One-third consumed between 2,143 and 6,000 calories per day.

The analyses were adjusted for history of stroke, diabetes, amount of education, and other factors that can affect risk of memory loss. The risk for the highest calorie group was nearly double that of the lower calorie group. There was no noticeable difference in risk for the middle group.

According to Geda, the findings should be considered preliminary. However, consuming in moderation is a good idea for other medical reasons as well.

The co-authors of the study include Ronald C. Petersen, MD, Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, and other investigators of the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging in Rochester, Minn.

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Coconut Oil and Alzheimer’s Disease

Back in July 2008, Dr. Mary Newport wrote a case study, “What if there was a Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease and no one Knew?” However, last month it was brought to our attention again when cbn.com did an interview with Dr. Newport (see video below). In her case study, she writes about ketone bodies which serve as fuel for your brain that your body makes when you ingest coconut oil. This may prove to be highly beneficial in fighting Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Several people sent me e-mail about this interview and since then I’ve been researching various Web sites as well as checking out local retail outlets for coconut oil. Health food stores and specialty supermarkets carry coconut oil in capsule form, although you may be able to find some health food stores carrying the actual oil (I was pleased to find it in a health food store in my area). However, with experts recommending between two and three tablespoons of coconut oil daily for prevention of AD and up to five tablespoons for AD and with each capsule having only about 500 to 1000 mg of oil (each tablespoon is equal to about 15 grams), you would need at least 15 capsules to get one tablespoon. Taking 45 to 75 capsules a day would be quite costly and ill advised.

One of the top producers of coconut oil is the Philippines so I visited a local Filipino market in southern California that was recommended by a Filipino acquaintance who uses coconut oil. It is recommended that you start slowly, and thus far I’ve used about a teaspoon in my morning oatmeal. (I’m trying to get used to greasy oatmeal). I’ve also tried substituting the olive oil in my salad with the coconut oil (the taste did not agree with me). Finally, I substituted one tablespoon of coconut oil for butter and syrup on my pancakes and that was by far the tastiest option. But since I don’t eat pancakes every day, I continued to experiment and now I find that adding coconut oil to a small amount of coffee or tea works well.

Bruce Fife, ND, author of Stop Alzheimer’s Now!: How to Prevent & Reverse Dementia, Parkinson’s, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis & Other Neurodegenerative Disorders cautions that proper diet is also a necessary component. Simply adding coconut oil to the diet will produce disappointing results. He says that the fundamental problem associated with Alzheimer’s disease is the inability of the brain to effectively utilize glucose, or blood sugar, to produce energy. The brain then needs another source of energy and this comes in the form of ketone bodies produced in the liver. Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) like coconut oil are converted into ketones in the body.

There are different methods of producing coconut oil. According to Tropical Traditions, a producer of coconut oil, “Virgin Coconut Oil can only be achieved by using fresh coconut meat or what is called non-copra. Chemicals and high heating are not used in further refining, since the natural, pure coconut oil is very stable with a shelf life of several years. There are currently two main processes of manufacturing Virgin Coconut Oil:

1. Quick drying of fresh coconut meat which is then used to press out the oil. Using this method, the coconut meat is quick dried, and the oil is then pressed out via mechanical means. This is the most common type of “Virgin” or “Extra Virgin” (see below) coconut oil sold in the market today that you will find in stores. It is mass-produced.

2. Wet-milling. With this method the oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat without drying first. “Coconut milk” is expressed first by pressing. The oil is then further separated from the water. Methods which can be used to separate the oil from the water include boiling, fermentation, refrigeration, enzymes and mechanical centrifuge.

Currently there is no known medication to prevent or stop Alzheimer’s disease. Coconut oil offers hope for this disease affecting 5.4 million Americans. Should you decide to try it, let me know how you’re ingesting it.

Prolonged stress does ugly things and now, possibly lead to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Researchers at the Munich-based University of Minho in Braga, Portugal, have shown that stress, and the hormones released during stress, can accelerate the development of Alzheimer disease-like biochemical and behavioral pathology. Protein deposits in nerve cells are a typical feature of Alzheimer’s disease: the excessive alteration of the tau protein through the addition of phosphate groups — a process known as hyperphosphorylation — causes the protein in the cells to aggregate into clumps. Nerve cells die as a result and those in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex are important for learning, memory, and higher cognitive functions.

In this study, rats subjected to stress such as overcrowding and placement on a vibrating platform for one hour daily for one month showed increased hyperphosphorylation of tau protein in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. The animals that showed these changes in tau had deficient memories showing problems in the hippocampus area and impaired behavioral flexibility showing deficiency in the prefrontal cortex.

Less than 10 percent of Alzheimer cases are genetic. Previous studies have shown that stress leads to the formation of beta-amyloid, another protein implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. According to Osborne Almeida from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, their findings indicate that stress hormones and stress can cause changes in the tau protein like those that arise in Alzheimer’s disease. The next step will be to see if results obtained in animals are applicable to the development of non-familial forms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Related Article: Stress Significantly Hastens Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease

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According to an article published in Translational Neuroscience, a study done at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have lower glucose utilization in the brain than those with normal cognitive function. The decreased levels could possibly be detected 20 years prior to the first symptoms of AD. With this knowledge comes the possibility of developing new therapies of preventing the start of Alzheimer’s.

In the article reported at NeuroScienceNews.com (http://tinyurl.com/3ompjp6), the study used mice modified to develop Alzheimer’s disease. The research team found that when β-amyloid, an abnormal protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease, starts to become detectable in the brain in its soluble toxic form, the mitochondria, or “power plants” of the cell where glucose is converted into energy, became impaired. Within the equivalent of about 20 human years, mice with decreased energy metabolism developed signs of Alzheimer’s disease such as cognitive defects and impairment of the synaptic terminal, the area of brain cells important in memory formation.

“This evidence in mice validates that the diagnosis of probable Alzheimer’s disease may be the end result of impairment in brain cell energy production,” said the study’s lead author, Giulio M. Pasinetti, MD, PhD, The Saunder Family Professor in Neurology, and Professor of Psychiatry, Geriatrics, and Adult Development at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “Identifying that mitochondrial impairment is evident years earlier than cognitive defects is a major breakthrough.”

“This new evidence could revolutionize the way we design interventions,” said Merina T. Varghese, MD, co-author of the study and Postdoctoral Fellow in Neurology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “This study sets the stage for the development of potential novel preventions or therapies to apply in humans, even when they have normal cognitive function, to prevent the eventual onset of Alzheimer’s disease.”

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Last week the Alzheimer’s Association released its new 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report. The statistics are grim. It is the sixth leading cause of death and of the top 10, it’s the only one where we do not know exactly how it can be prevented, cured, or slowed. Yes, we do have many research studies going on, but there has not been anything definitive. Most of the studies are just the tip of the iceberg and require further research. Some have produced disappointments. Highlights from the report include the following:

  • An estimated 5.4 million American’s have Alzheimer’s disease. Another American develops Alzheimer’s disease every 69 seconds.
  • In 2010, 14.9 million family and friends provided 17 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
  • The cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s to American society will total $183 billion in 2011.
  • Deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 66 percent between 2000 and 2008, and Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent, cure, or even slow its progression.

The complete 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report allows you to get information specific to your state. Let’s hope we will have a major breakthrough this year and the 2012 report will be a lot more promising.

The Alzheimer’s Association produced a video capturing these statistics.

Meditation is often associated with words such as relaxation, peacefulness, and calm. Researchers and scientists have for some time now endorsed the value of meditation. Not only do people who practice meditation feel calm and happy, they also report enhanced cognition and memory abilities. Although researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital did not include those with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), they sought to study the benefits of mindfulness meditation training and in my opinion, this can certainly apply to the AD population.

A recent study that was supported by the Institutes of Health, The Mind and Life Institute and the British Broadcasting Company studied the changes in the brain after an 8-week mindfulness meditation program. The findings from the study have been published in the Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, January 30 issue. It reports that this is the first time that changes in the brain and related improvements have been documented due to meditation over a period of time.

Magnetic Resonance Images (MRI) were taken two weeks before and after the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program Program was conducted, for both the control group and the group that practiced mindfulness meditation. This form of mediation focuses on the feelings, emotions and state of mind in a non judgmental manner. The study group conducted meditation exercises for about 27 minutes daily. Their responses to a mindfulness questionnaire showed a marked improvement when compared with those made before the study began.

MRI after the mindfulness meditation program focused on parts of the brain that have shown improvement in earlier studies. The images showed an increase in the grey matter density of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that affects memory and learning. Similarly, brain parts that are related with compassion, self understanding and introspection also increased in size.

The participants reported reduced stress and this was correlated with the reduction in density at the amygdala, the part of the brain that affects the stress and anxiety that an individual experiences. However the insula, which is believed to be associated with self awareness, did not show any changes. More research in this direction may be required.  The MRI of the control group showed no changes in the same period of time.

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but mindfulness meditation may aid Alzheimer’s disease patients in dealing with AD more effectively. Britta Hölzel, PhD, is first author of the paper and a research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Giessen University in Germany. James Carmody, PhD, of the Center for Mindfulness at University of Massachusetts Medical School is the co-author.

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Statins for Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a disease of the brain and the most common form of dementia that causes problems with daily living, memory, thinking, and behavior.  While statistics vary, as many as 5.1 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s.  This estimate counts for as many as 70 percent of dementia cases in adults 60 or older.  While there are several recommendations for AD prevention, including reducing cholesterol, researchers have yet to find a cure for this form of dementia.  Although cholesterol lowering drugs such as statins can slow down the process of Alzheimer’s development, there is a large debate on whether these drugs are effective for reducing damage in patients with Alzheimer’s. How do statins work and how are they used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease?

Statins are prescription drugs that are used to lower blood cholesterol levels by blocking chemicals in the liver that produce cholesterol.  While many may ask how a cholesterol lowering medication could treat Alzheimer’s, many studies have proven that statins have a positive effect in the body for those who suffer from the disease.  High cholesterol levels are recognized as one of the common risk factors that leads to the development of Alzheimer’s.  By lowering these levels early, Alzheimer’s development can be slowed.

In addition to eliminating one of the most common risk factors, statins are known to protect nerve cells against damage in the brain.  The nerve cell damage that is caused by Alzheimer’s is what leads to memory loss and difficulty comprehending.  By reducing cell damage in the brain, studies published by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, have proven that Lovastatin prevents the death of cells in the brain to keep the brain responsive.  Laboratory studies at the University of Groningen have shown that the neuroprotective mechanism slows the progression of the disease.

While there is skepticism relating to Alzheimer’s and statins, studies have shown that if statins are administered in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, patients will not advance through the disease as quickly.  While statins are not a cure or a way to prevent the disease entirely, they are a protective measure that could have a beneficial effect.

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Carmellia sinesis foliage

Green tea is my favorite drink and is in the news again. Now it’s exciting to hear that green tea may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The latest news comes out of Newcastle University where Dr. Edward Okello, executive director of the university’s Medicinal Plant Research Group, reports that when green tea is digested by the body, the polyphenol compounds that are in green tea will produce new chemicals that can protect the cells from toxic damage and hence, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The digested chemicals also slowed down the rate of cancer growth.

Digestion is the critical component. Because we put foods into our body that we consider “healthy,” it does not mean that out body absorbs the nutrients. At noranagatani.com, I have a post about enzymes. There is also a fascinating book on enzymes written by DiQue Fuller, Ph. D. Click this link or the link to the right — The Healing Power of Enzymes.

In the United States, black tea has been the predominant tea, but green tea is becoming more popular. What is green tea? It is tea whose leaves have been steamed and dried without fermenting and therefore, there’s minimal oxidation during processing. It originates from the leaves of Camellia sinensis. The green tea that I like is the Japanese version. Over the years, they have improved on the quality and taste from the original import from China over 500 years ago. Alibaba.com has a discussion of the difference between Chinese green tea and Japanese green tea in case you are considering green tea in your diet.

The study, “In vitro protective effects of colon-available extract of Camellia sinensis (tea) against hydrogen peroxide and beta-amyloid (A(1-42)) induced cytotoxicity in differentiated PC12 cells,” was published in Phytomedicine. The next step is for the team to test whether the beneficial compounds are produced during digestion after healthy human volunteers consume tea polyphenols. Perhaps, one day, green tea might be the simple answer we’re looking for to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency and Cognitive Impairment

In my last post, I wrote about omega-3 fatty acid, a common supplement easily obtained. Vitamin B-12 is another supplement that may support brain health. According to the Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Aging (OPTIMA), coordinated out of the University of Oxford, providing supplemental B vitamins to older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) could slow age-related brain atrophy. Higher homocysteine (Hcy) levels appear to be linked with a faster rate of brain atrophy and cognitive decline, and using B vitamin supplements to lower those levels could preserve mental well-being.

The researchers concluded that the accelerated rate of brain atrophy in older adults with MCI can be slowed by intervention with B vitamins. They also stated 16 percent of adults over age 70 have MCI, and half of these develop Alzheimer’s disease, with adults with MCI who have accelerated brain atrophy more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, they suggested further trials are needed to see if the B vitamin treatment could delay this progression.

Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., vice president, global government and scientific affairs, Natural Products Association (NPA), commented, “This study is important because it emphasizes the importance of prevention. Also, it noted over time, people don’t sustain their levels of B vitamins and tend to have problems assimilating enough of them, particularly B12, from the diet. This will serve as a keystone for other research and longer term studies that can look at the potential of B vitamins as a preventive tool.” Click here to read the full article.

If you take a multi-vitamin, check to make sure B12 is included. Centrum Silver has 25 mcg which is 417% above the average daily recommended amount. Personally I take one of two vitamins — VitaOne contains 60 mcg of B12 (1,000%) and VitaChe contains 200 mcg of B12 (3,333%). Now I know why it gives me so much energy.

If you don’t take supplements, it may be a good idea to take B-12 supplements to avoid risk of deficiency of the vitamin.

Alzheimer’s Disease Risk and Hormone Therapy

This should be of interest to women — Science Daily reports that, “Compared to women never on hormone therapy (HT), those taking hormone therapy only at midlife had a 26 percent decreased risk of dementia; while women taking HT only in late life had a 48 percent increased risk of dementia.” This was a study conducted by Kaiser Permanente.

It is recommended that women speak with their doctors. According to  lead author Rachel Whitmer, PhD, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, if you start HT late in life, you have a 50 percent increased risk of dementia, which is consistent with other studies.” Women who were on HT only in midlife had a modest protection against dementia.

Data for midlife was taken from a survey in 1964 from women 40 to 55 years of age with the mean age being 48.7 years. The mean age for late life was 76 and pharmacy databases were used  from 1994 to 1998. A total of 1,524 women were diagnosed with dementia during the follow-up period. It was suggested that women who took hormone therapy in midlife and then again in late life counteracted the benefit from taking HT in midlife.

According to the article, this study is is part of an ongoing body of research at Kaiser Permaenete. The data was collected in the 1960s and 1970s. This multiphasic data has revealed the following:

  • Heavy smoking in midlife is associated with a 157 percent increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and a 172 percent increased risk of developing vascular dementia.
  • A larger abdomen in midlife increases risk of late-life dementia.
  • Elevated cholesterol levels in midlife significantly increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia later in life.
  • Low blood sugar events in elderly patients with type 2 diabetes increase their risk for dementia.
  • Having a strong social network of friends and family appears to decrease the risk of dementia.

To read the full article, click here.