Science Update

New study demonstrates mentally stimulating activities protect against cognitive impairment


Alzheimers disease and related disorders (ADRD) are a group of conditions that cause mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia. These conditions affect ones ability to function socially personally and professionally. Its important to recognize that Alzheimers disease begins long before symptoms start just like many other conditions. There is evidence that simple prevention strategies can reduce the risk of ADRD by as much as 50%.

According to a new study published January 30th in JAMA Neurology Mayo Clinic researchers demonstrated that mentally stimulating activities reduce the risk of new-onset mild cognitive impairment even when performed later in life.

This study found that healthy individuals age 70 or older who were active on a computer played games and were involved in craft and social activities had a reduced risk of developing MCI.

The study included 1929 cognitively normal participants for an average duration of four years. As a result the researchers discovered that the risk of new-onset mild cognitive impairment decreased by 30% with computer use 28% with crafts 23% with social activities and 22% with playing games. Furthermore individuals who performed these activities at least once or twice a week had less cognitive decline than those doing the same activities only two to three times a month.

When I was taking a lot of continuing education in postgraduate functional neurology we always talked about what you fire you wire.Its all about neuroplasticity and stimulating those neural pathways to make them stronger and more efficient.

The benefits of being cognitively engaged were also seen in those with the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene which is a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and related disorders (ADRD). The researchers found that only computer use and social activities were associated with a reduced risk of MCI in APOE carriers. This is another example of the important role of the environment and epigenetics and not solely focusing on the gene.

When you looks at any condition the cause is multifactorial and there are addition steps health care providers can take to help their patients. I shared a study in August in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry researchers at UCLA demonstrated the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise and its impact on reducing amyloid plaque build-ups that are associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Previous research has demonstrated the association between diabetes and Alzheimers. A study published last year in the Journal of Alzheimers Disease compared decades of research on diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

Additionally a study published in 2015 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.

Another study published in 2015 in JAMA Neurology demonstrated a significant association between vitamin D insufficiency and cognitive decline specifically seen Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids are also crucial nutrients involved in numerous metabolic processes that play a significant role in cognitive health. There was an interesting study published in the Journal of Alzheimers 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 those with neurodegenerative disorders. Providing antioxidant support with NAC or glutathione is essential for neurodegenerative disorders because the bodys cells are more susceptible to damage and death after 40 years of age.

Curcumin also provides protection in amyloid-induced toxicity. There are very few natural products that have demonstrated the wide range of protective properties as those of curcumin. Additional brain-supportive nutrients include magnesium l-threonate acetyl l-carnitine and glycerophosphocholine.

By Michael Jurgelewicz DC DACBN DCBCN CNS