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Defenses Against Alzheimers

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The inflammatory processes behind Alzheimer’s are important to know if you are to understand ways to reverse the disease process.

Let me share what I’ve learned about this and the research on nutrients shown to effectively counteract these processes.

Causes For Alzheimer’s Disease

Tremendous research has been done on this topic for more than 20 years. Let me summarize the primary observable pathogenesis (cause for disease) of Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Membrane/synaptic degeneration: In the brain, the beta-amyloid and tau proteins get deposited into membranes lining the synapses (spaces between cells). These deposits prevent neurotransmitters from taking part in neuronal cell- to-cell communication. Research is ongoing to uncover contributing causes for this happenstance. Radioactive diagnostic tracers (Vizamyl, Amyvid) can be injected during positron emission tomography (PET) of the brain. These tracers selectively bind to amyloid plaques: If this scan is negative, it helps rule out Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Abnormal protein processing: Genetically predisposed individuals overproduce the abnormal proteins beta-amyloid and tau. As in any chronic disease, the underlying contributors of inflammation and oxidative stress are involved. (I discuss the related research below.) 

Contributing Factors

Now consider the many contributing factors that can cause a person genetically predisposed for Alzheimer’s disease to develop the disease itself:

  • Small vessel (vascular) disease: The common cardiovascular condition of the elderly known as atherosclerosis contributes to Alzheimer’s by reducing blood flow and nutrient supply to the sensitive nerve tissue of the brain of aging Alzheimer’s patients. Risk factors for atherosclerosis must be considered here, including hypertension and the many other contributors to atherosclerosis.
  • Inflammation: Contributors to neurodegenerative inflammation include unhealthy gut lining [1] (leaky gut syndrome and the autoimmune toxicity that it causes); xenobiotics (hormone mimickers); exposure to aluminum [2] [3] [4] [5] (found in many deodorants, antacids, anti-diarrhea medications, baking powder and cookware); malnutrition; head injuries; and infections [6].
  • Oxidative stress: The microscopic process in which pro-oxidant molecules overwhelm antioxidant defenses. In Alzheimer’s dementia, oxidative stress occurs in mitochondria (energy and processing factories) of nerve cells. [7] This can be caused by iron and copper [8] (study [9] authors suggest chelation therapy to offset this process); low vascular blood flow [10] (atherosclerosis); and high homocysteine blood levels. [11] Known causes of oxidative stress in general include: smoking; excess alcohol; too many prescription medications; high animal meat consumption; pesticides (on produce); foods with artificial flavorings, preservatives and dyes; chemicals in personal care products (xenoestrogens); endurance exercise; and high electromagnetic frequency (EMF) exposure.

Research On Nutrients To Reverse Alzheimer’s Dementia

There is some impressive science that has been done using nutrient-rich raw foods to actually reverse the disease process of Alzheimer’s. James Joseph and colleagues of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston have led the way in these studies. In the September 1999 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, they reported [12] that rats were fed vitamin E, strawberry extracts or spinach extracts from the time they initially became adults into their middle age and did not experience losses in their cognitive performance as did other rats fed standard chow.

In further studies, lab animals that were fed spinach, strawberry or blueberry extracts actually reversed age-related deficits compared to the ones fed normal chow. The blueberry-fed group far outperformed the others in balance and coordination and had the highest levels of the “feel good” neurotransmitter, dopamine.

Joseph and colleagues then did Alzheimer’s-specific studies. Using gene manipulation, they created mice with Alzheimer’s disease. Beginning at 4 months of age, half these mice were fed a diet plus a supplement of blueberry extract (2 percent of their diet) for 8 months, while the others were fed standard chow. The control group was composed of normal mice that didn’t carry the amyloid-plaque mutation who were also fed standard chow.

All three groups of animals were tested for their performance in a maze at 12 months of age — the mouse equivalent of human early middle age. Amazingly, the Alzheimer mice that were fed the blueberry extract performed much better than those fed standard chow — and even as well as the healthy controls. The researchers reported their findings in the June 2003 issue of Nutritional Neuroscience [13]showing for the first time that it may be possible to overcome genetic predispositions to Alzheimer disease through diet.

The scientists also found that older rats fed blueberry extracts for even a short time had new nerve growth in the area of the brain responsible for memory (the hippocampus [14]. Joseph later called the blueberry the “brain berry.” Moreover, blueberries, spinach and spirulina helped reverse vascular damage as reported in the May 2005 issue of Experimental Neurology. [15] That’s important because these same highly antioxidant nutrients are also known to reduce atherosclerosis, a major contributor to dementia.

There are several nutrient supplements that help reverse dementia or reduce the disease process in genetically predisposed individuals. They do one or more of the following: reduce the inflammatory processes, promote membrane and normal synapse formation, enhance memory, reduce oxidative stress,[16] and improve endothelial function (slow atherosclerosis) to maintain blood vessel health.