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Health Supplements May Help Combat Alzheimer’s Disease And Dementia

Alzheimer's riskBillions of dollars are spent each year in search of a drug to combat diseases and disorders of the brain, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). No doubt this is, by and large, money well spent. It would be a relief to finally be able to stop these debilitating conditions. But according to a recent report, a few pennies a day spent on health supplements could go a long way in slowing down the progression of these diseases.

Now, we wouldn’t say that it’s folly that huge amounts of money should be spent on “a new Aricept”. Aricept (also known as Donepezil) is currently the most successful drug in combating Alzheimer’s. However, its therapeutic effects are said to last only a couple of years at best. Our view is that if it can improve the quality of life for a couple of years or more, it may well be worth it.

What we do agree with is that prevention may be the better way to go. Once brain cells die, you don’t get them back so if you can prevent this from starting, the better.

Research should be geared towards intervening at an early stage. This is key to slowing down or stopping nerve cell death associated with AD. Once the nerve cells have died and the brain has shrunk, it’s too late.

Research into Alzheimer’s should be geared towards intervening at an early stage

Research into Alzheimer’s should be geared towards intervening at an early stage

I am the founding director of the Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (OPTIMA), which studies the causes of dementia. Last year we recruited 270 elderly people with memory problems and gave them Vitamin B tablets – folic acid (800 micrograms), B12 (500 micrograms) and B6 (20 milligrams).

The supplements, which cost as little as 10p a day, were found to slow shrinkage of the brain by an average of 30 per cent a year – and slow the rate of cognitive decline – in people with high blood levels of homocysteine. Raised levels of this amino acid can increase the risk of developing AD three or four-fold.

By regulating homocysteine with B vitamins, we showed for the first time it is possible to slow the progress of the disease, if you start early. More trials are needed to test whether continued treatment can delay its progress indefinitely, but B vitamins have been shown to be as good clinically as Aricept – and better in that they slow the disease progression rather than ease the symptoms. See the full original post at The Daily Mail

In fact, this is not the first time that dietary supplements have been found to be helpful in the risk of Alzheimer’s:

Antioxidant vitamin supplements, particularly vitamins E and C, may protect the aging brain against damage associated with the pathological changes of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and other institutions. The researchers believe antioxidant vitamin supplements may be an ideal prevention strategy for our aging population as they are relatively nontoxic and are thought to have wide-ranging health benefits. The study, “Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease in Users of Antioxidant Vitamin Supplements” is published in the January 2004, issue of the journal Archives of Neurology.

Peter P. Zandi, PhD, lead author of the study and an assistant professor in the School’s Department of Mental Health, said, “These results are extremely exciting. Our study suggests that the regular use of vitamin E in nutritional supplement doses, especially in combination with vitamin C, may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”

The researchers examined data from the Cache County Study, which is a large, population-based investigation of the prevalence and incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Residents who were 65 or older were assessed from 1996-1997 and again from 1998-2000. See the full original story at Science Daily

Maybe supplements are not so useless after all, despite what one “study” seems to suggest (see Really, Vitamins Bad For You?). The funny thing is, that story is already old in this digital age and had already faded away but it appears to have been given another leash of life. As for me, I will continue taking my supplements.

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