Alzheimer’s Disease Research Archives

AboutAlz.com Ends Regular Run

It’s been three years since I began this blog. I started it as a way to seek answers for myself. The number of people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other forms of dementia is staggering and the projected numbers are mind-boggling. Each year we are hopeful for the one miracle drug that will cure AD, but we have not reached our goal.

The untold number of hours that caregivers spend caring for their loved ones cannot be measured. It indeed takes a huge toll on their physical and mental health as well as their financial burden.

When I look at the visitor statistics for this blog, I know that other people are looking for answers as well. Although I am encouraged by the numbers to continue this blog, my situation has changed and I have accepted another challenge which requires that I devote some time to achieve success. I may return to writing this blog in the future, but I hope that it will not be necessary as we will have solved the problem and eliminated Alzheimer’s disease.

If I can summarize what we can all do at this point, it’s everything you would do to keep your immune system healthy such as:

  • Get adequate sleep every night.
  • Take enough Omega 3 and other necessary supplements. (Check with your health care provider).
  • Exercise as vigorously as you can.
  • Find enjoyment in life. Do things that you really love to do. Just because it’s been said that crossword puzzles are good for the brain, if you don’t enjoy it, why are you engaging in it?
  • Be grateful no matter what situation you are in. There’s a lesson to be learned in everything.

The Alzheimer’s organization is one source that has been very helpful in keeping us posted with the latest news and there are other sources that I’ve mention in this blog as well. Do check its Web site periodically. As I say good-bye for now, I thank you for your support.

Exercise and Alzheimer’s Disease

As revealed in the Journal of Biological Chemistry “Paper of the Week,” Ayae Kinoshita, a researcher at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, exercise is of great significance in fighting against Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease mostly occurs in individuals who are above 65 years of age and is one of the common causes of dementia. This disease is attributed to a number of factors that include the lack of regular exercise as well as an unhealthy diet that includes excess fats.

The research done by Kinoshita included a comparative analysis of voluntary exercise, diet control, and a combination of exercise and diet control in a mouse model with Alzheimer’s disease. Results indicated that regular exercise was of more benefit in reducing formation of β-amyloid—typical characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease — compared to diet control. In addition, exercise triumphed over diet control in restoration of memory loss induced by a fat-rich diet in the mice models. On the basis of this research, the Kyoto University expert recommends that the first priority should be given to exercise in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

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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.

Dancing and Mental Acuity

This is an old study completed in 2001 and reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, but one that covered 21 years, a significant period of time. The study, done at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, measured the mental acuity in aging by observing rates of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, of 469 seniors 75 and older. The focus of the study was to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity. Dancing was the most beneficial.

The cognitive activities included:

  • Reading books
  • Writing for pleasure
  • Doing crossword puzzles
  • Playing board games or cards
  • Playing musical instruments
  • Participating in organized group discussions

Physical activities included:

  • Playing tennis or golf
  • Swimming
  • Bicycling
  • Dancing
  • Walking for exercise
  • Doing housework
  • Participating in group exercises

Today, almost everything you read suggests that physical activity plays an important role in maintaining your brain as well as your heart. In this study, however, almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia. This study specifically looked at whether or not there were ways to reduce the risk of dementia and the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing!

Here are some of the results:

Dancing frequently – 76% – the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.
Doing crossword puzzles at least four days per week – 47%
Reading – 35%
Bicycling and swimming – 0% reduced risk
Playing golf – 0%

The researchers believe that the dancers are more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater cognitive reserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses. Like education, participation in some leisure activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving cognitive reserve. They also said we need to keep as many of those paths active as we can while also generating new paths to maintain the complexity of our neuronal synapses.

More recently, Science Daily reported in 2010 that two recent studies conducted by University of Missouri researchers found that participation in dance-based therapy can improve balance and gait in older adults. Improved functionality among seniors can decrease their risk of falling and reduce costly injuries.

I love line dancing and I attend classes when my schedule permits. This video is a link to one of the sessions and as you can see, not everyone learns at the same pace, but everyone has a lot of fun. Eventually,we all get it. The short Asian woman in green in the back row is 80 years old. What an inspiration. Now that I know the huge benefit of dancing, I will definitely want to continue.

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Souvenaid and Alzheimer’s Disease

Souvenaid, in its second clinical trial, has been proven to help the memory of people who suffer from mild Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Results of the trial were given at the 4th International Conference on Clinical Trials in Alzheimer’s Disease (CTAD) by Philip Scheltens, MD, PhD in San Diego in early November. Scheltens is head of the Alzheimer Center at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam.

Souvenaid has a unique mixture of nutrients that work by stimulating the connections between nerves, also known as synapses. Losing these connections is what many experts think is responsible for losing memory in Alzheimer’s patients.  Studies demonstrate that the nutrients in Souvenaid can help grow new synapses in the brain. People taking Souvenaid daily over three months had improved scores on memory tests.

Scheltens is cautiously optimistic about the new findings. More research needs to be done before any conclusions can be drawn, but he thinks it is a step in the right direction.

Souvenir II was completed at  27 centers in six countries in Europe to see if the effects from Souvenir I would last for eight weeks. This study used additional measures to test for recall and also measured brain activity. Of 259 subjects, over 91% finished the study.

Memory was tested at the beginning, at 12 weeks, and at 24 weeks. The composite score was gotten from the Rey Audtiory Verbal Test which tests instant recall, delayed memory, and recognition. The Wechlser Scale which tested verbal association was also used.

Over the 24 weeks, the total scores from the Souvenaid group were much higher than those from the control group. Besides just looking at memory scores, they are attempting to analyze the electroencephalogram and magnetoencephalogram data, which may help figure out the influence  Souveniad has on synapse building in patients with Alzehimer’s disease and dementia.

CTAD is sponsored by the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the European Alzheimer’s Disease Consortium (EADC).

Facebook Light for Dementia Patients

According to Medical News Today, there is a version of Facebook called Facebook Light being developed by SINTEF, the largest research organization in Scandinavia. This will enable the elderly and those with dementia to maintain important social contact. This will enable them to maintain their level of functioning longer, according to research and experience.

According to Tone Oderud, a research scientist at SINTEF, the elderly are being excluded from social media today. The user interface is too advanced for many of them. Oderud is working in a multidisciplinary research team to develop a web-based communications application which is simple enough to enable even people with dementia to use it. The goal is to create a simpler and more secure everyday life for elderly and senile people, their relatives and personnel in the community care services.

Furthermore, research scientists believe that contact through social media can improve the quality of health and life for the great numbers of elderly and those with dementia in our society. At the same time, this can ease the burden on therapists and caregivers.

Testing of other web-based communications systems have already been started. They include a “digital diary” and “scrapbook” with personal photos, newspaper cuttings, and other online information. Oderud says that both of these improved communication between both relatives and the community care services in an informal but valuable way.

The article states that the tests showed that constant, simple contact between relatives and the support services improved everybody’s security and at the same time it reduced the time the caregivers needed to follow up concerned relatives. This holds great potential in all fields of caregiving.

A prototype is currently being tested in the city of Drammen in southern Norway.

According to the 2010 World Alzheimer Report as produced by the Alzheimer’s Disease International, there are approximately 35.6 million dementia cases in the world. In the 2011 Facts & Figures of the Alzheimer’s Association, there are more than 5 million Americans who have Alzheimer’s disease (AD). A new mathematical model created by scientists (for mid-life hypertension, diabetes, smoking, mid-life obesity, depression, physical inactivity and low educational attainment) allowed them to estimate the entire number of Alzheimer’s disease risk attributable to lifestyle risk factors both in the world and US combined.

The researchers reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2011 that the proportion of worldwide and United States (US) Alzheimer’s cases could be attributed to seven key risk factors:

Risk Factor World US
Physical Inactivity 13% 21%
Depression 11% 15%
Smoking 14% 11%
Mid-life Hypertension 5% 8%
Mid-life Obesity 2% 7%
Low Education 19% 7%
Diabetes 2% 3%

Altogether, the seven possible modifiable risk factors contributed to 50% of cases of Alzheimer’s worldwide while in the US, the number is 54%. Researchers were similarly surprised that factors such as smoking and physical inactivity contribute to a large quantity of cases compared to cardiovascular disease. However, this also suggests that simple changes in lifestyle such as regular physical activity and stopping smoking could have a drastic impact on the cases of Alzheimer’s disease over time.

According to calculations, a 10% decrease in all the risk factors could halt 1.1 million cases of Alzheimer’s worldwide as well as 184,000 cases in America. Take note that a reduction of 25% in all the risk factors could halt more than three million cases of Alzheimer’s in the world and 492,000 cases in America.

In the study conducted by Deborah Barnes,  Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California – San Francisco and  San Francisco and Mental Health Research PI at the Veterans Affair Medical Center at San Francisco, she reports that what mattered was the common risk factors in the population. She adds that the study’s focus was how the risk factors were common within the population. In the US alone, a third of the population leads a sedentary lifestyle. A large quantity of cases could be attributed to physical inactivity. Smoking similarly contributed to a large number of cases.

According to Barnes, the estimates offer a valuable assumption – that there is a direct relationship between the studied risk factors as well as Alzheimer’s disease. The next step is to do an intervention to discover if changing such risk factors will decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s. The results of the study are to be published on the Lancet Neurology online.

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A brand new global mathematical model of Alzheimer’s disease risk shows that decreasing the pervasiveness of popular chronic diseases which are lifestyle-based risk factors by as much as 25% could possibly halt 3 million Alzheimer’s disease worldwide as based on the new research shown at the AAIC 2011 (Alzheimer’s Association International Conference) in Paris.

Previous research has seen a slew of potential changeable risk factors for the disease such as physical activity levels, diet and mental stimulation. However, it is unclear if changing such a lifestyle-based risk factors could result in lesser Alzheimer’s disease risk.

Scientists utilized mathematical modeling in order to compute the percentage of the disease that might be attributed to mid-life hypertension, diabetes, smoking, mid-life obesity, low educational attainment, depression as well as physical inactivity. According to researchers, such estimates provide a critical assumption that is yet to be proven (that there is a direct relationship between the examined risk factors as well as Alzheimer’s disease and that changing the risk factors could decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s).

In a study presented at 2011 AAIC, researchers are looking at the characteristics of old adults who kept their cognitive normal function in order to build a “cognitive resilient aging” index. Their objective is to know a group of factors which predict one’s cognitive stability later in life to be used in research trials and clinical practice.

William Thies, PhD, is the Chief Medical and Scientific Officer of the Alzheimer’s Association. According to him, Alzheimer’s disease and lifestyle is a worldwide emergency. We need to increase the discovery of ways to prevent and detect it as soon as possible. He adds that estimated costs of worldwide dementia is US$604 billion. In the US alone, the cost is US$183 billion.

Deaths related to Alzheimer’s disease are increasing. Meanwhile, those from other types of disease are decreasing. Take note that Alzheimer’s is in the top 10 causes of death in the US which could not be cured, prevented or be slowed down.

In the 2010 World Alzheimer Report produced by Alzheimer’s Disease International, dementia is significantly affecting the world’s social care and health system. Plus, dementia costs are about to soar. According to Thies, the Alzheimer’s Association – in behalf of those who are suffering with such a devastating disease as well as their families including the tons of researchers present in the conference – is calling for an unprecedented worldwide collaboration to further understand, treat and diagnose the disease with the objective of eliminating this global epidemic.

Meanwhile, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at San Francisco’s University of California, San Francisco and Mental Health Research PI at the Veterans Affair Medical Center at San Francisco, Deborah Barnes, PhD, MPH, as well as colleagues, utilized mathematical models to compute PARs or “population attributable risks” for possibly modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease to show the possible impact of risk factor decrease on the prevalence of Alzheimer’s in the US and the world.

PARs are utilized to estimate the number of cases of a specific disease which are possibly attributable to or necessitated by numerous risk factors. PARs usually consider the strength of the connection between the risk factors of the disease as well as the commonality of the risk factors.

They discovered that almost half of Alzheimer’s disease risks are attributed to changeable risk factors. Altogether, seven risk factors (to be discussed in the next post) are seen to contribute to as many as 17 million cases of Alzheimer’s disease and lifestyle worldwide and almost 3 million cases in America.

 

ICAD 2011

Last month the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) — there has been a name change from the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease (ICAD) — had their annual meeting in Paris, France with more than 5,000 scientists in attendance. Each year we look forward to hearing about the latest advances in detection and cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is that there’s progress toward earlier detection, but as one of the leading causes of death, the bad news is that there is still no cure.

In my next two posts, I will present a study that caught my interest because it has to do with lifestyle changes that we can make to potentially lower our risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In the United States, the researchers found that there are seven potentially modifiable risk factors:

  1. Physical inactivity
  2. Depression
  3. Smoking
  4. Mid-life hypertension
  5. Mid-life obesity
  6. Low education
  7. Diabetes

To view a summary of the Alzheimer’s disease research presented, click here.

Next year the conference will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, July 14 -19, 2012.

 

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Scientists are looking at a biomaker that may possibly aid in the identification of individuals with mild memory problems who will eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease. The finding, which was published in the online version of Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology. It is believed that the new biomarker may prove to be more accurate compared to already established biomarkers.

According to the study author Robert Perneczky, MD, of the Technical University Munich in Germany, identifying individuals who will have Alzheimer’s disease earlier will be an important development. Once treatments that can be used for the prevention of the disease are available, it will become easier to treat and even prevent memory loss.

Fifty eight people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) participated in the study. It is estimated that as many as 15% of the people who have MCI will develop Alzheimer’s every year.

Cerebrospinal fluid was taken from each participant and tested for certain proteins. Participants were then studied for about three years. Of the participants, 21 developed Alzheimer’s, 27 remained with MCI while 8 people regained normal cognitive skills. Researchers discovered that participants who later developed Alzheimer’s had significantly high levels of sAPPβ or soluble amyloid precursor protein beta in their cerebrospinal fluid.

Based on their findings, the researchers discovered that the person’s age, a protein called tau, and sAPPβ were excellent predictors of future cases of Alzheimer’s. Using these factors as a basis, it was easier to predict if an individual ran the risk of developing the disease. The accuracy for this prediction is pegged at about 80%.

A protein amyloid known as Aβ1-42 or amyloid beta1-42 was once considered one of the biomarkers significant to Alzheimer’s disease. However, it was not used as one of the predictive factors in the study.

The results, Perneczky said, suggest that sAPPβ could be useful as a biomarker and that it may even be better than Aβ1-42 for use in diagnosing Alzheimer’s earlier. The reason for this may be that Aβ1-42 can only indicate events at a later stage – events that already point to the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain. Since sAPPβ can be used as a critical initial step in determining if the disease will develop, it is likely to provide a more accurate indication on important pathological events.

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