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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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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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 Research Part 1

Although there is still no conclusive test for the determination of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), there is hope and occasionally, new information. Last month, Science Daily reported that:

Elderly people exhibiting memory disturbances that do not affect their normal, daily life suffer from a condition called “mild cognitive impairment” (MCI). Some MCI patients go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease within a few years, whereas other cases remain stable, exhibiting only benign senile forgetfulness. It is crucial to develop simple, blood-based tests enabling early identification of these patients that will progress in order to begin therapy as soon as possible, potentially delaying the onset of dementia.

A group of investigators, led by Professor Massimo Tabaton of the University of Genoa, Italy, have data that sheds light on this issue. The results of their research are published in the October issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The investigators report that the concentration in blood of amyloid beta “42,” the toxic molecule that is believed to be the main cause of Alzheimer’s disease, is, on average, higher in MCI cases that went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease approximately three years later. The values of amyloid beta in blood vary considerably among the patient groups examined (MCI that develop Alzheimer’s disease; MCI stable; normal subjects). “This variability is likely very important,” Dr. Tabaton noted and went on to add, “but means that this needs further work before we can use this test for a definitive diagnosis.” For example, the scientists are going to set up a test that picks up a variant of amyloid beta potentially more specific of the disease.

There’s progress, but we still have a long ways to go to find an effective test. A conclusive blood test would certainly be ideal. But even if we were to have a conclusive test, doctors still have very few effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. And still, as it has been for a long time, only an autopsy will reveal definitively whether or not a person truly had Alzheimer’s.

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