In a recent study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, researchers at UCLA demonstrated the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise, and their impact on reducing amyloid plaque build-ups that are associated with Alzheimer's disease.
In the study, 44 adults ranging from 40 to 85 years of age with mild memory changes had PET scans to measure the level of plaque and tangles in the brain. Researchers also obtained information on exercise activity, BMI, and other lifestyle factors.
The study found that exercise, a Mediterranean diet, and a healthy BMI were all associated with lower levels of plaques and tangles on the brain scans.
We have already seen the association between diabetes and Alzheimer’s. A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease compared decades of research on diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.
In addition, previous studies have linked a healthy lifestyle to delays in the onset of Alzheimer's, but this new study is the first to demonstrate how lifestyle factors directly influence abnormal proteins in people with slight memory loss who have not been diagnosed with dementia thus far. In addition, these factors have also been shown to reduce shrinking of the brain and lower rates of atrophy in individuals with Alzheimer's.
In addition to diet and exercise there are several nutrients to consider. A study published in September in the journal Neurology demonstrated that resveratrol stabilized amyloid-beta40 (Abeta40) in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. This biomarker declines when the disease progresses.
B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids are also essential nutrients involved in numerous metabolic processes that play a significant role in cognitive health. There was an interesting study published this past January in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, where researchers found a link between omega-3 levels, homocysteine, and brain atrophy rates. Homocysteine plays a role in regulating phospholipid metabolism and omega-3 distribution by the methionine cycle. As a result, B vitamins are essential for the synthesis of phospholipids. This study demonstrated that when omega-3 levels are in an upper normal range, B vitamins slow cognitive decline and brain atrophy.
Glutathione is also essential for neurodegenerative disease. This powerful antioxidant has been found to be depleted in the brain of neurodegenerative disorders. The extent of glutathione depletion appears to mirror the severity of the disease and is the earliest known indicator of degeneration. The brain has difficulty handling significant amounts of oxidative stress due to the presence of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low levels of antioxidants such as glutathione. Thus, providing antioxidant support with NAC or glutathione can yield a beneficial effect in all neurodegenerative disorders.
By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN
Source: Merril, D et al. Modifiable Risk Factors and Brain Positron Emission Tomography Measures of Amyloid and Tau in Nondemented Adults with Memory Complaints. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry published May 13 2016.