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Alzheimer's Disease and Its Possible Treatments

Dementia
is the general term for a progressive brain disorder that gradually destroys a person's ability to carry out daily activities.  Alzheimer's disease (AD)  is the most common form of dementia.  It is estimated 10% of people in their 60s, 20% in their 70s, and 30% in their 80s have AD in the U.S.[28]
  On average, Alzheimer's patients live from 7 to 10 years after a diagnosis, with some living up to 20 years.  Death normally occurs usually within ten years, and usually from  the failure of a body system or an infection. 

To understand AD more, you can read this companion article:
Possible Treatments and Prevention

Unfortunately there is no cure for AD.  Dr. Gary Small, director of
UCLA's Memory and Aging Center and author of The Memory Bible, says, "By the time a patient develops Alzheimer's disease, the damage is done and likely irreversible.  In the absence of a cure, our best shot at beating Alzheimer's lies in slowing cognitive decline.

In November 2012, a pacemaker-like device was implanted into the brain of a patient in the early stages of AD at Johns Hopkins[46].  This device, which provides deep brain stimulation and has been used in thousands of people with Parkinson's disease, is seen as a possible means of boosting memory and slowing cognitive decline.

Five FDA-approved medications can also be prescribed to individuals with AD to improve their mental functioning and allow them to perform more activities of daily living. [11]  However, the medications' effects are temporary and become less effective as the disease progresses.  A class of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitorsAricept is one example—helps to preserve acetylcholine in the brain and that helps memory formation[6].  Another class of drugs, which includes memantine, helps preserve neurons and probably helps to keep them healthy a little bit longer.

What's good for the heart is also good for the brain
—and the reverse is true, too.  Vascular disease can make Alzheimer's symptoms appear sooner or make them worse, so people should be physically active and control their blood pressure, weight and cholesterol.  They also should be engaged socially and remain mentally active.

Optimal Food or Supplement for Mental Performance
  • Drinking silicon-rich mineral water
    • Preliminary evidence has shown that over 12 weeks of silicon-rich mineral water therapy the body burden of aluminum fell in individuals with Alzheimer's disease and, concomitantly, cognitive performance showed clinically relevant improvements in at least 3 out of 15 individuals[54]. 
  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR)[7]
    • As we age, we synthesize 50% less ALCAR.  Deficient in fuel, our cellular energy factories become dysfunctional and leave neurons sputtering in disorganized communication.  Boosting ALCAR in brain cells helps revive mitochondrial functioning, creating a surge in overall mental and physical energy.  ALCAR also blocks the formation of Alzheimer's tau tangles in test tubes.
    • The acetyl group on ALCAR can be donated to a specific acceptor molecule, choline, to form the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which helps restore nerve function.  Eggs are a good source of choline.
  • NSAIDS[8]
    • Some studies have suggested a link between a reduced risk for Alzheimer's disease and the commonly used painkillers NSAIDs. The link between NSAIDs and a lower Alzheimer's risk was made when researchers observed that people who take NSAIDs for chronic conditions such as arthritis or other immune disorders have lower rates of Alzheimer's disease. More studies are needed to confirm or refute this finding.
  • Tea
    • Compounds such as flavonoids, theanine, and caffeince, found in both black and green tea, have been associated with decreased risk of dementia and AD.
  • Wine
    • Too much alcohol consumption increases risk of dementia, yet plant chemicals known as ployphenols, particularly resveratrol found in red wine, may help fight dementia and AD.  The important caveat is that you need to consume wine in moderation.
  • Chocolate
    • Research on cocoa flavanols points to increased blood flow to the brain and improved cognition.  Surprisingly, a higher cocoa content does not always guarantee the presence of cocoa flavanols.  Look for products that boast of their cocoa flavanol content.
    • A study of elderly Norweginas found that those who consumed chocolate, wine, and tea had better cognitive performance compared with those who didn't partake in any or consumed only one or two of the three.
  • Grapes
    • Results from a placebo-controlled human study showed that participants who drank Concord grape juice experienced significant improvement in short-term retention and spatial memory testing.
  • Strawberries & Blueberries
    • Researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University demonstrated that strawberry extract helped slow decline in cognitive function.
    • An animal research study showed significant cognitive improvement in adult mice who consumed wild blueberry (low-bush) concentrate.
    • Regular consumption of berries, such as blueberries or strawberries, may help keep your brain functioning well as you age, new research suggests[41].
  • Coffee[14, 16]
    • A Finnish study of over 1,400 subjects found that those who were coffee drinkers at midlife were less likely to develop dementia than those who didn't drink coffee. Those at lowest risk were 3-to-5-cup-a-day coffee drinkers.  However, be warned for the downsides of drinking too much caffeine[10].
    • Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine explain that a “caffeinated-herbal chewing gum” effectively improved memory in a series of tests used to asses cognitive functioning.
    • Scientists from the USF/Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute in Tampa, Florida describe a still unidentified component of coffee that increases the amount of GCSF (granulocyte-colony stimulating factor) in animal models of AD. This is of vital importance because treating AD mice with GCSF counters the effects of the neurodegenerative disease.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
    • In a study of 3,660 people over the age of 65, one group ate fish rich in omega-3 fats three times a week or more.  A second group didn't eat fish regularly.  The fish-eating subjects had over a 25% reduction in the risk of silent infarcts of the brain that are associated with dementia.
    • In a review article[19], authors conclude that evidence from several types of studies, particularly studies in animals, suggests that changes in brain concentrations of DHA are positively associated with changes in cognitive or behavioral performance.
  • Turmeric/curry
    • In a study of over 1,000 elderly Asian subjects, those who reported consuming curry "occasionally to very often" had significantly better Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores for three categories compared with those subjects who reported they "never or rarely" consumed curry.
  • Chewing gum
    • Research conducted by Todd Parish, MD, director of the Center for Advanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging at North-western University, found that gum chewing increased blood flow to the brain, decreased emotional stress, and improved cognitive performance.
  • Phosphatidylserine
    • Phosphatidylserine belongs to a group of substances called phospholipids and can be found in the brain as well as in soy and eggs.  One study showed improvement in the games of young golfers who took the supplement over a forty-two-day period.  Phosphatidylserine is believed to positively affect cognitive function, specifically concentration; however research does not (yet) support its use for improving cognition in older folks.
  • B-complex vitamins
    • Vitamin B12, niacin, and thiamine, are known to improve cognitive performance
  • Ginkgo biloba
    • Researches at the UCLA had good results with studies on ginkgo for memory boosting.
  • Ginseng
    • Several clinical studies have reported that Panax (Asian) ginseng can improve thinking or learning.
  • Huperzine A
    • Chinese medicinal extract with properties similar to cholinesterase inhibitors
  • Maritime Pine Bark
    • Bioflavinoids present in maritime pine bark are believed to help maintain the health of brain cells and facilitate oxygen uptake to improve memory which might make it useful in treating AD.
  • Top Brain Foods mentioned in Dr. Oz TV show:
    • Lentil—for its capability of providing steady stream of glucose to the brain
    • Chia seed—for its omega-3 fatty acid
    • Brazil nuts—for its rich magnesium content
  • Ginger and Apple Products[29-31]
    • Ginger and apple products appear to protect human nerve cells from the neurotoxic Alzheimer’s plaque protein amyloid Beta in a petri dish.
  • Coconut Oil
    • Dr. Mary T. Newport has documented the success of reversing her husband's Alzheimer's symptoms by eating coconut oil in her new book named "Alzheimer's Disease: What If There Was a Cure?"[40]

Top Lifestyle Strategies for Protecting Your Brain

  • Avoid or treat strokes, heart disease, diabetes
  • Treat depression and anxiety
  • Upbeat attitudes and mentally active lifestyles[50]
    • See the inspiring video for an example [49]
  • Follow a heart-healthy diet
    • A study published recently in Archives of Neurology showed that a diet rich in salad dressing, nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry, cruciferous vegetables, fruits and dark leafy greens—in combination with low intake of high-fat foods such as red meat, organ meat and butter—had a 30% reduced risk of AD[11].
    • Eating a Mediterranean-style diet may not only affect the risk for AD, but also put the brakes on other forms of cognitive decline," says Catherine Feart, PhD, of Universite Victor Segalen in Bordeaux, France, who led the French study[18].
  • Stimulate your mind
    • For example, learn a new language and use it daily[5]
  • Engage socially with others
  • Reduce stress
Brain Healthy Spices[3]
  • Turmeric, found in curry, contains a chemical that has been shown to decrease the plaques in the brain thought to be responsible for Alzheimer's disease.
  • A number of studies have found that saffron is helpful in treating mild to moderate depression.
  • Sage has A-level--the highest level possible--scientific evidence for memory enhancement.
  • Cinnamon has been shown to enhance memory and focus and may aid in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease.  Plus, cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Avoid Aluminum and Copper[28,33,35-38,47]

Those neurofibrillary tangles associated with Alzheimer's disease contain aluminum.  While there's no evidence suggesting that aluminum causes memory problems, it's better to try to avoid it.
  • One way to reduce the aluminum you absorb:
    • Use sea salt  (or mined Himalayan salt) instead of table salt, which is processed with aluminum to avoid caking
    • If you use baking soda in your bakery items, choose aluminum free ones.
  • Other things that contain aluminum include:
    • Nondairy creamers
    • Antacids
    • Cans
    • Certain cookware
      • Note that EWG recommends cookware made of stainless, cast iron, or glass.
    • Antiperspirants
In [28,33], Dr. Brewer has hypothesized that copper toxicity is causing the epidemic of Alzeimer's disease and loss of cognition in our aging population.  Some of his findings include:
  • Trace amounts of copper in drinking water greatly exacerbated the disease in Alzheimer's disease animal models.

  • Alzheimer's disease patients have an increased free copper level in the blood.

Food copper (organic copper) is processed by the liver and is transported and sequestered in a safe manner. Inorganic copper, such as that in drinking water (hint: copper plumbing) and copper supplements, largely bypasses the liver and enters the free copper pool of the blood directly.  So, to play safe, uptake your copper from organic source and filter your water before drinking.

Final Words
As Dr. Oz said in [11]:
Unfortunately, despite all efforts, even the healthiest person may still experience cognitive decline with age.  Alzheimer's disease results from a complex interaction of factors:
  • genetics
  • age
  • environment
  • lifestyle, and
  • existing medical conditions
While some of these factors can be addressed, others, such as genetics and age, are unavoidable.

References

  1. The 10 Best Questions for Living with Alzheimer's by Dede Bonner, Ph.D.
  2. 101 Optimal Life Foods by David Grotto, RD, LDN
  3. Change Your Brain Change Your Body by Daniel G. Amen, M.D.
  4. Your Brain on Food by Gary L. Wenk
  5. The Bilingual Advantage
  6. UCSF Memory and Aging Center
  7. Alpha Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine
  8. Pros and Cons of Aspirin
  9. Read Maintain Mental Vitality in How to Live Longer and Healthier Life
  10. If You Drink Too Much Caffeine
  11. Alzheimer's in America edited by Karen Skelton, Angela Geiger, Olivia Morgan, Roberta Hollander, and Kathryn Meyer
  12. www.creatingmemories.blogspot.com
  13. Alzheimer's Association
  14. Aging Well News by Healthy Fellow
  15. High blood pressure increases dementia risk
  16. Coffee May Fend off Alzheimer’s
  17. Brain Shrinkage: It's Only Human
  18. 20 Years Younger by Bob Greene
  19. McCann JC , Ames BN (2005) Am J Clin Nutr 82:281–295. 
  20. Looking at the link between diabetes and dementia
  21. Depression as a Risk Factor for Alzheimer Disease
  22. T. Ohara, Y. Doi, T. Ninomiya, et al: "Glucose tolerance status and risk of dementia in the community: the Hisayama study." Neurology, Vol. 77, Sept. 20, 2011, pages 1126-1134.
  23. Johanna C. Goll1 et al: "Impairments of auditory scene analysis in Alzheimer's disease." Brain (2011).
  24. Olfactory Robert S. Wilson, et al. "Identification and Incidence of Mild Cognitive Impairment in Older Age." Arch Gen Psynchiatry. 2007; 64(7):802-808.
  25. The tangled web in Alzheimer's protein deposits is more complex than once thought
  26. Perneczky R, et al "CSF soluble amyloid precursor proteins in the diagnosis of incipient Alzheimer disease" Neurology 2011; Vol. 77: pages 35-38, June 22, 2011.
  27. Detecting Alzheimer's Earlier, Nasal Deposits Indicate Incipient Alzheimer's Disease Years Before The First Symptoms Appear
  28. The Risks of Copper Toxicity Contributing to Cognitive Decline in the Aging Population and to Alzheimer's Disease
  29. Amyloid and apple juice
  30. Ortiz D, Shea TB. Apple juice prevents oxidative stress induced by amyloid-beta in culture. J Alzheimers Dis. 2004 Feb;6(1):27-30.
  31. Lee C, Park GH, Kim CY, Jang JH.[6]-Gingerol attenuates β-amyloid-induced oxidative cell death via fortifying cellular antioxidant defense system. Food Chem Toxicol. 2011 Jun;49(6):1261-9. Epub 2011 Mar 9.
  32. Seshadri S, et al. Plasma homocysteine as a risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer's disease. New Engl J Med 346: 476– 483, 2002. 
  33. Brewer GJ, Newsome DA: “Copper Proof: How Chronic Copper Toxicity is Causing the Epidemics of Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia.” Ann Arbor: George J. Brewer Inc., 2009.
  34. Vitamin D and Its Benefits
  35. Virginie Rondeau, Daniel Commenges, Hélène Jacqmin-Gadda and Jean-François Dartigues.  Relation between Aluminum Concentrations in Drinking Water and Alzheimer's Disease: An 8-year Follow-up Study Am. J. Epidemiol. (2000) 152 (1): 59-66. doi: 10.1093/aje/152.1.59
  36. Swegert,C.V., Dave,K.R. and Katyare,S.S. (1999) Effect of aluminium-induced Alzheimer like condition on oxidative energy metabolism in rat liver, brain and heart mitochondria. Mech. Ageing Dev., 112, 27–42.
  37. Tsunoda,M. and Sharma,R.P. (1999) Modulation of tumor necrosis α expression in mouse after exposure to aluminium in drinking water. Arch. Toxicol., 73, 419–426.
  38. Rogers,M.A. and Simon,D.G. (1999) A preliminary study of dietary aluminium intake and risk of Alzheimer's disease. Age Ageing, 28, 205–209.
  39. Death of NHL 'Enforcer' Boogaard Puts Spotlight on Repeated Head Trauma (CTE and Alzheimer's)
  40. Coconut Oil Touted as Alzheimer's Remedy (video)
  41. Eating Berries Might Help Preserve Your Memory
  42. Is Alzheimer’s Disease a Type of Diabetes?
  43. Mind Games: How to Prevent Dementia
  44. Alzheimer’s May Begin Early in Life
  45. Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains
  46. JOHNS HOPKINS SURGEONS IMPLANT BRAIN ‘PACEMAKER’ FOR ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE IN UNITED STATES AS PART OF A CLINICAL TRIAL DESIGNED TO SLOW MEMORY LOSS
  47. Research presented at the Keele Aluminum Conference strengthens aluminum's link to cancer, Alzheimer's disease & more
  48. Nagele, Robert G. (2006). "Alzheimer's disease: new mechanisms for an old problem". University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. 
  49. Growing bolder, not older (an inspiring video to watch)
  50. Aging with Grace by David Snowdon
  51. 青年,阿玆海默(in Chinese)
    • A good account of the disease from a patient's recollections.
  52. Tacrine (Mayo Clinic)
    • Tacrine slows the breakdown of acetylcholine,  so it can build up and have a greater effect. However, as Alzheimer's disease gets worse, there will be less and less ACh, so tacrine may not work as well.
    • Tacrine may cause liver problems. 
  53. Committed to Memory:How We Remember and Why We Forget by Rebecca Rupp
  54. Silicon-Rich Mineral Water as a Non-Invasive Test of the "Aluminum Hypothesis" in Alzheimer's Disease (PubMed)
  55. 9 Top Foods To Boost Your Brainpower
  56. Grain Brain
  57. Full-length TDP-43 Antibody Confirms Human FTLD
  58. Where Does Alzheimer's Treatment Go From Here? (12/29/2016)
  59. Do brain games make you smarter, or just better at brain games?

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