Joseph F. McCaffrey MD, FACS

 

Two Supplements to Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

 

Jackie and Jon recently went out to Detroit to visit Jackie's mom, Ruby. This was the first free time Jon has had in some time and he wanted to get out to see his grandmother while she still might recognize him. You see, Ruby has Alzheimer's disease.

It's been devastating to the family to watch rubies mind and ability to relate steadily deteriorate. You see a lot of sad things in medicine, one of the saddest is the effects of Alzheimer's on a person and their family.

We don’t know nearly as much about Alzheimer’s as we need to. We don’t have any good treatments. For that matter, we really don’t even know what causes Alzheimer’s.

What we definitely know is the anguish it causes.

As you might imagine, I tend to be on the lookout for anything having to do with preventing Alzheimer's. I was very excited to see an article published in a recent issue of The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease that suggests two simple and safe nutrients may have the ability to prevent Alzheimer's.

The following is a rewrite of an article that I did for Total Health Breakthroughs reporting on the results of this study.

Only about 25% of cases of Alzheimer's disease occur because of a genetic predisposition.  Genetics don’t appear to play a role in the other 75% of victims - the cause is uncertain.  That means the vast majority of people who develop Alzheimer’s most likely due so due to lifestyle and environmental factors. 

While that statistic may be alarming, the good news is that we can reduce our risk of Alzheimer's disease by making some simple changes — especially to our diet. A recent study suggests that two readily available and safe supplements may help prevent Alzheimer’s.  I’ll tell you about them in a moment, but first a little background...

While we don't know the cause of Alzheimer's, the final effect on the brain is the build up of a polypeptide called amyloid. The amyloid forms plaques which cause cognitive decline that worsens steadily as the build up progresses.

Researchers have found that in some people macrophages (specialized white cells that we think of more often as fighting bacteria) “attack” and remove amyloid as it forms. As you might expect, this finding raised the possibility of somehow using these cells to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s. That led to the following experiment.

Researchers collected monocyte cells (white blood cells that transform into macrophages) from nine patients with Alzheimer's as well as controls. They then incubated these white blood cells in the presence of beta-amyloid, then added vitamin D3 and curcumin to the mix, both individually and together,.

The results were impressive. Both vitamin D and curcumin increased the macrophage uptake of amyloid. In some patients the effect of using them together was synergistic.

The researchers were quick to point out that this is a laboratory study and that the research is still in its early stages. They're making no clinical recommendations at this time.

On the other hand, we already know the importance of having healthy levels of vitamin D to support the immune system. This research suggests one more important reason to make sure we do

 And curcumin is the main biologically active phytochemical in turmeric. Populations whose traditional cuisine regularly uses turmeric, such as those of India and southeast Asia, have lower rates of Alzheimer's then we see in the West. This may be the reason.

So even though there's no definitive clinical trial as yet, it makes sense to check your vitamin D levels, eat curries regularly and consider taking a curcumin supplement.

By the way, the researchers also looked at different forms of curcumin and found that some synthetic variations had a much higher rate of absorption and appeared to be even more effective. I'll keep you informed about this in future updates.


Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 17(3):703-717, 2009


 

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