Indian village may hold key to beating dementia By Jane Hughes, BBC
Ballabgarh in northern India has unusually low levels of Alzheimer’s disease. More than 820,000 people in the UK are living with dementia, a number that is expected to double by 2051. Is there anything that can be learnt from this region to slow the trend?
As the sun breaks through the morning mist in Ballabgarh, the elders of the village make their way to their regular meeting spot to exchange stories and share a traditional hookah pipe.
These men are in their sixties and seventies, while their faces bear the evidence of years of hard work in the fields, their minds are still sharp.
In other parts of the world, people of their age would be at some risk of developing dementia. But here, Alzheimer’s disease is rare. In fact, scientists believe recorded rates of the condition in this small community are lower than anywhere else in the world.
76-year-old Parshadi Lal says: “I feel good, I feel healthy, I have a walk every morning, even though my knees do now give me a bit of trouble.” His friends nod in agreement.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh spent several years studying over-55s in this area.
They tested more than 5,000 people for Alzheimer’s disease, using screening processes designed to fit in with local culture, and relevant for people who could not read or write.
They wanted to be sure they did not miss any cases of the condition.
It is an area where people do not tend to live as long as they do in wealthier, more developed areas, so you would expect rates of Alzheimer’s disease to be lower.
But even after the scientists factored in the lower life expectancy of people in this area, the rate of Alzheimer’s disease was significantly below those in the UK – and less than a third of those in parts of the US.
“We had a hunch that rates here would be lower,” says Dr Vijay Chandra, one of the study authors. In fact, they found what appeared to be among the lowest rates of the condition ever recorded by scientists.
So what is it about the people of Ballabgarh that is protecting them from a condition that affects about 36 million people worldwide?
Dr Chandra told me they tested people to see whether fewer of them carried the APO4E gene, which predisposes people to Alzheimer’s disease. They did not.
When compared to people living in a community in Pennsylvania, US, they found almost exactly the same proportion carried the gene.
But in contrast with lives in Pennsylvania and other parts of the world, the people of Ballabgarh are unusually healthy. It is a farming community, so most of them are very physically active and most eat a low-fat, vegetarian diet. Obesity is virtually unheard of.
Life in this fertile farming community is also low in stress, and family support is still strong, unlike in other, more urban parts of India.
“It all leads to a happy body, and a happy mind and hopefully a happy brain,” says Dr Chandra.
“Cholesterol levels here are much lower. We believe that is what is protecting the community.”
Life in Ballabgarh could not be more different from the complicated, stressful existence many of us lead in the rest of the world. But perhaps this community has something to teach us.
Alzheimer’s and Veganism
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a chronic neurodegenerative disease characterized by loss of memory and other cognitive functions. It is the most common cause of dementia in elderly population, and is among the leading causes of death globally. Formation of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain are two most common characteristic features of AD.
Several studies have revealed that a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle-related factors trigger the onset and progression of AD. Studies have also suggested that vascular disorders such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, as well as metabolic abnormalities such as obesity and diabetes, are linked with the pathophysiology of AD. A healthy diet, physical activity, and social engagement have significant role in reducing the risk of AD.
How Diet Impacts Alzheimer’s Disease
Diet has shown to play an important role in the pathogenesis of AD. It has been found that high consumption of animal meat is strongly associated with the risk of AD among certain populations. A higher prevalence of obesity together with elevated cholesterol, saturated fats, and iron levels is expected to be the main cause of AD in these populations.
According to Chicago Health and Aging Project; Washington Heights-Inwood and Columbia Aging Project, New York; and Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging, and Dementia study, Finland; consumption of saturated fatty acids, which mainly come from dairy products and meat, increases the risk of developing AD. The association between consumption of saturated fatty acids and development of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases may contribute considerably to the pathogenesis of AD.
A link has also been established between blood cholesterol level and risk of AD. It has been found that individuals with high plasma cholesterol levels (≥240 mg/dL) in midlife are 57% more likely to develop AD later in life, compared to individuals with low plasma cholesterol levels (<200 mg/dL). High consumption of saturated fatty acids and/or high blood cholesterol level may induce the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain, indicating possible contributions of these factors towards AD.
Mediterranean diet, which is characterized by high intake of vegetables, fruits, cereals, legumes, and unsaturated fatty acids, and a low intake of meat, poultry, and saturated fatty acids, is known to reduce the risk as well as the mortality rate associated with AD. Many plant-based foods are rich in vitamins, which participate in homocysteine metabolism as cofactors. Deficiency in Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, or folic acid is associated with elevated level of homocysteine, which, in turn, increases the risk of AD. Thus, consumption of foods, which are rich in these vitamins, is highly beneficial for reducing the risk of AD.
Considering the impact of diet on AD, several guidelines for AD prevention were established by the experts at the International Conference on Nutrition and the Brain, 2013. These guidelines included the following key points:
- Minimize the intake of saturated fats and trans fats.
- Dairy items and meat should be substituted by fruits, vegetables, legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), and whole grains as primary staple diet.
- Rely on food sources of Vitamin E instead of supplements. Healthy foods containing Vitamin E include nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy vegetables. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for Vitamin E is 15 mg daily.
- A Reliable source of Vitamin B12 such as fortified foods, or a supplement providing at least the RDA (2.4 μg per day for adults) should be a part of the daily diet.
- If using multiple vitamins, choose those without iron and copper, and consume iron supplements only when directed by the physician.
- Although aluminum’s role in AD remains a matter of further investigation, those who desire to minimize their exposure can avoid the use of cookware, antacids, baking powder, or other products which contain aluminum.
- Include aerobic exercise in the routine, equivalent to 40 minutes of brisk-walk 3 times per week.
Despite several benefits in preventing AD, some studies have raised a question – ‘Whether or not following a strict vegetarian/vegan diet is healthy in all respects?’ In this context, one study has found that consuming only vegetarian diet reduces cognitive abilities compared to consuming diet that includes fish. Studies have also suggested that individuals who adhere to a strict vegetarian diet often suffer from Vitamin B12 deficiency; thus, are at high risk for developing hyperhomocysteinemia and AD.
Another disadvantage of vegetarian/vegan diet is that such diet lacks omega-3 fatty acids, including alpha linoleic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid, which are highly important for cognitive development. Supplementing the diet with omega-3 fatty acids, which mainly come from seafood and fish, has shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and dementia, including AD.
Last Updated: Aug 23, 2018
Alzheimer’s Natural Treatments:
Slow and Perhaps Even Reverse Alzheimer’s with These Foods and Spices By Sayer Ji • Originally published on Greenmedinfo
Did you know that so-called “incurable” neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, can be slowed, if not also partially reversed?
Regeneration, after all, is the default state of the human body.
This may sound all the more surprising when you consider that over 1,000 clinical trials have been performed, and billions of dollars expended, in order find an effective solution, without any significant progress in reversing the underlying trajectory of the condition. [i]
In fact, some of the very same patented chemicals approved by the FDA to “treat” the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, e.g. donepizl (trade name Aricept), are chemically related to insecticides, chemical weapons and venom, and are notorious for greatly increasing the risk of seizures in those to whom they are prescribed.
Back in 2006, a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) found that a class of compounds found within turmeric known as curcuminoids enhance the amyloid-beta uptake of macrophages within Alzheimer’s disease patients.
In the study, researchers treated the macrophages of six AD patients and 3 controls by curcuminoids and measured the Abeta uptake. The results were as follows:
“After treatment of macrophages with curcuminoids, Abeta uptake by macrophages of three of the six AD patients was significantly (P<0.001 to 0.081) increased.”
“Immunomodulation of the innate immune system by curcuminoids might be a safe approach to immune clearance of amyloidosis in AD brain.”
While these two studies are amazing, they are not novel. In fact, we have identified 30 studies in total which show the potential value of curcuminoids in Alzheimer’s disease prevention and treatment. These study abstracts can be viewed in full on our Alzheimer’s disease page.
Curcumin is, in fact, only one of several natural compounds and/or therapeutic modalities with promising anti-Alzheimer’s activity. Others include:
- Coconut Oil (MCTs): Alzheimer’s disease is associated with a pathological decrease in brain glucose, the brain’s principal source of energy. In 2006, a study was published in the journal of Neurobiology of Aging, involving subjects with mild cognitive impairment who were given an oral dose of medium chain triglycerides. When tested 90 minutes later, subjects showed increased cognitive performance, believed to be associated with increased ketone bodies and their brain-metabolism enhancing effects.[iii]
- Alpha-Lipoic Acid: A 2007 study published in the Journal of Neural Transmission found alpha-lipoic acid “dramatically lowers” disease progression in Alzheimer’s disease patients who received 600 mg a day for 12 months.[iv]
- B-Complex: A 2011 study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found B-complex to slow cognitive and clinical decline in people with mild cognitive impairment. The researchers noted that homocysteine is a risk factor for AD and that B vitamins may slow brain atrophy by suppressing homocysteine accumulation. [v]
- Alpha-GPC: A 2003 study published in the journal Clinical Therapeutics found that the cholinergic precursors choline and lecithin (phosphatidylcholine) in the form of choline alfoscerate (Alpha-GPC), and naturally found in neuronal membranes, was tolerable and effective in the treatment of the cognitive symptoms of dementia disorders of the Alzheimer type. [vi]
- Gingko Biloba: In 2006 the European Journal of Neurology published the results of a 24-week randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study showing an extract of this plant was as effective as Aricept (donepezil) for mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. [vii] Another study published in 2009 found that it was as effective as Aricept in improving symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, but with less side effects. [viii]
- Saffron: A 2009 study published in the journal Psychopharmacology found that 22-weeks of saffron supplementation compared favorably to Aricept in the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. [ix]
- Vitamin E – A 2009 study published in 2009 in the journal Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders found that vitamin E use is associated with improved survival in an Alzheimer’s disease cohort. [xii]
[ii] Curcuminoids enhance amyloid-beta uptake by macrophages of Alzheimer’s disease patients. J Alzheimers Dis. 2006 Sep;10(1):1-7.
[iii] Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Mar 22;54(6):2123-8.
[iv] Alpha-lipoic acid as a new treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease–a 48 months follow-up analysis. J Neural Transm Suppl. 2007;(72):189-93.
[v] Cognitive and clinical outcomes of homocysteine-lowering B-vitamin treatment in mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2011 Jul 21. Epub 2011 Jul 21.
[vi] Cognitive improvement in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia after treatment with theacetylcholine precursor choline alfoscerate: a multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Ther. 2003 Jan;25(1):178-93.
[viii] Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761(R), donepezil or both combined in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease with neuropsychiatric features: a randomised, double-blind, exploratory trial. Aging Ment Health. 2009 Mar;13(2):183-90.
[ix] A 22-week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind controlled trial of Crocus sativus in the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2010 Jan;207(4):637-43. Epub 2009 Oct 20.
[x] Diet and Alzheimer’s disease risk factors or prevention: the current evidence. Expert Rev Neurother. 2011 May ;11(5):677-708.
[xii] Vitamin E use is associated with improved survival in an Alzheimer’s disease cohort. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2009;28(6):536-40. Epub 2009 Dec 10.
Spices By Michael Greger, M.D.
The spice saffron was found to significantly beat out out the control “sugar pill” in helping to prevent further cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients.
Saffron has been used as a folk remedy for more than 90 diseases since the Bronze Age over 3,000 years ago. We currently have preliminary science supporting its role for erectile dysfunction, depression, premenstrual syndrome, and now, Alzheimer’s disease.
The study used a daily dose of 30mg of saffron a day. According to the World Health Organization, up to 1.5 grams a day may be safe, but 5 grams can be toxic, and 20 grams fatal. Saffron is contraindicated (meaning should not be used) for those with bleeding disorders and for pregnant women (since it may induce uterine contractions).
Recent research is revealing that CBD could have effective in helping to reduce the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease. But is CBD oil effective as an Alzheimer treatment? Let us take a look at what science is uncovering about the us of CBD to relieve Alzheimer’s and the various symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Since AD is classified as a build up of the plaque (amyloid beta) in the brain, inflammation of the brain and oxidative stress, using CBD to relieve Alzheimer’s could provide benefits for the associated symptoms.
CBD (cannabidiol) is non-toxic and non-psychoactive plant-based cannabinoid found in hemp. Research shows CBD is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and has potent neuroprotective properties.
Using CBD to relieve Alzheimer’s symptoms involves:
- Reducing reactive gliosis (change in response to damage to the central nervous system).
- Reduction of neuro-inflammation.
- Promotes neurogenesis (new brain-cell growth).
- And potentially much more.
The CBD oil dosage for Alzheimer’s treatment varies based on several factors. Different ages and sizes require different levels of CBD to produce similar effects. A beginning guideline for CBD oil dosage for an Alzheimer’s treatment recommends you begin with 1-2 drops (1–2 times per day). If you are not experiencing the relief you desire, it is recommended that you increase your CBD oil dosage for Alzheimer’s treatment by 1–2 drops (every 1–2 weeks) until you experience the symptom relief you desire.
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