Archive for January, 2011

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, 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. 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.

Nancy Nicholson

Today’s poignant blog post is written by Nancy Nicholson, LBSW, author of Help! What Do I Do Now? Caring for Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s. She writes about Alzheimer’s and caregiving on her website: Nancy shares with us part of why she wrote the book.

Making Invisible Alzheimer’s Patients Visible

Our friends had stopped by to visit. We didn’t get much company living out on the ranch anyway, but since Dad’s Alzheimer’s disease (AD) diagnosis, visits were even fewer. The guests, who lived only about a mile away, had been friends and co-workers for more than a quarter of a century—she had worked with Mom and he had worked with Dad. Mom welcomed them in, and we all took seats in the living room. There were the “how are you doing?” and “long time no see” exchanges. Then an uncomfortable silence set in. The couple sat facing Mom and me, and the few words they spoke were directed to us. They did not address Dad directly and appeared uneasy and never tried to include him in the conversation. Their visit was short, and, honestly, I believe very uncomfortable for everyone. Dad had seemed excited about the prospect of visitors, but as they drove away, he turned and walked back to the bedroom with shoulders slumped.

This is just one of many experiences that had a profound effect on me while caring for Dad. I was angry at his so-called friends for basically ignoring him. He was still a person and could still participate in conversations even if he was slow to answer or occasionally misunderstood what was said. I had thought that a visit from old friends would be good for him, but at the end, he seemed sad. I could only imagine what he was thinking.

Through the seven years we cared for Dad with this devastating disease, it seemed that often he was invisible to other people. He was treated as if he wasn’t a person, as if he had no value, as if he wasn’t even there anymore. During that time, I resolved that I would make it my vocation to help make life easier for those afflicted with the disease and to help other people to see AD-afflicted patients as human beings with emotions and value. I went on to get my degree in social work and worked in long term care facilities as a social worker. Currently I am a social services consultant to nursing homes. Training staff members is one of my primary duties, and I especially enjoy training people about caring for dementia patients. I want to make them understand that someone with AD is still a person with feelings and a need to be included.

I also see a lack of knowledge among caregivers. Almost everything my family and I learned about caring for Dad came through trial and error. I’ve seen so many “errors” made by well-intentioned, caring family members who simply don’t know how to deal with their loved one. The relationship has totally changed, and they may feel the patient is no longer the person they know and love. That’s why I wrote Help! What Do I Do Now? Caring for Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s. It’s a short guide with lots of examples and tips for specific situations. Most of all, though, I want to encourage family members to continue to relate to their loved one, to remember he is still the same person inside even if the disease has camouflaged that person, and to make the best of the journey they are on together.

Click here to order Help! What Do I Do Now? Caring for Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s from Amazon (print and Kindle) or here to order from Smashwords (ebook format). Bulk orders: support groups or families who need 10 or more copies can order at a discount; click here.

Nancy is also the sister of editor and writer, Lillie Ammann, who writes, and was last cited in this blog here.

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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.

Happy New Year! I hope 2011 is off to a good start for you and your loved ones. I thought I’d start off the year by writing about an article that appeared in Medical News Today. A study published in the November edition of Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association suggests that taking docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may improve memory and learning in older adults with mild cognitive impairments. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid. This is promising news for many aging Americans who are searching for options to maintain memory and support overall cognitive health.

DHA is something contained in fish oil capsules that you can buy over-the counter at any drug store or large box stores such as Walmart or Costco. They vary in the amount of DHA so you will need to read the label. There is also a prescription fish oil called Lovaza that contains 375 mg of DHA. The particular brand that I take has a warning: Do not use with anticoagulant and platelet-inhibiting drugs like aspirin, etc. I wrote about other warnings in another blog. Read more here.

The study found that DHA taken for six months improved memory and learning in healthy, older adults with mild memory complaints. This study underscored the importance of early intervention and the necessity of taking supplements over a period of time. According to Duffy MacKay, N.D., vice president, scientific & regulatory affairs, for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), “When included as a part of a proactive health regimen that includes a well-balanced diet, regular physical activity and routine visits with a healthcare professional, dietary supplements offer an important tool to help support many systems in the body, including memory and cognitive function.” To read the full article, click here.

My warmest wishes for a very healthy year ahead!