Folic acid may be most important nutrient to reduce Alzheimer's risk
The results of a long-term study published in the inaugural issue of Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, indicate that consuming adequate levels of the B vitamin folate is associated with the greatest protection against Alzheimer's disease of any nutrient examined. Folate is found in a number of foods, such as leafy green vegetables, but is often destroyed by cooking. Grain products have been fortified with folic acid in the United States since 1998, however, it is believed that many Americans are still deficient in the vitamin. The study is the largest so far to evaluate the association between folate and Alzheimer's risk and to analyze antioxidants and B vitamins at the same time.
Assistant professor of neurology Maria Corrada of the University of California Irvine's Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia and colleagues utilized data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging which was begun in 1958 and includes over 1,400 participants. The current study involved 579 subjects without dementia aged 60 and older who completed seven-day dietary diaries between 1984 and 1991. Fifty-seven of these participants developed Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers found that individuals whose intake of folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin E were higher had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease than those whose intake was less, however when the vitamins were analyzed together, only folate intake was correlated with a significantly decreased risk of the disease. Dr Corrada noted, "The participants who had intakes at or above the 400 microgram recommended dietary allowance of folates had a 55 percent reduction in risk of developing Alzheimer's. But most people who reached that level did so by taking folic acid supplements, which suggests that many people do not get the recommended amounts of folates in their diets."
A Japanese study of 64 patients with Alzheimer's disease and 80 age-matched healthy adults found that the dietary behaviors of Alzheimer's disease patients were markedly different. The Alzheimer's disease patients tended to dislike fish and green-yellow vegetables and took more meats than controls. Nutrient analysis revealed that Alzheimer's disease patients took less vitamin C and carotene and consumed significantly smaller amounts of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) reflecting the low consumption of fish. These habits started from three months to 44 years before the onset of dementia, suggesting these dietary abnormalities are not merely the consequence of dementia (Otsuka 2000).
A study by Giem et al. (1993) investigated the relationship between animal product consumption and evidence of dementia in two cohort studies of 272 and 2984 subjects in California. The matched subjects who ate meat (including poultry and fish) were more than twice as likely to become demented in comparison to their vegetarian counterparts (relative risk 2.18). The discrepancy was further widened (relative risk 2.99) when past meat consumption was taken into account.
A study of 5386 nondemented people found that high intakes of total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol were associated with an increased risk of dementia. Fish consumption was related to a reduced incidence of dementia and Alzheimer's disease (Kalmijn et al. 1997).
Folic acid (folate) is a member of the B-complex family. It is found in abundance in leafy green vegetables, but is often deficient in the standard American diet. Folic acid participates in a coenzyme reaction that synthesizes DNA needed for cell growth and new cell formation and helps convert vitamin B12 to one of its coenzyme forms.
The Life Extension Revolution, by Philip Lee Miller, MD and the Life Extension Foundation
Developing “maximum brainpower for life” concludes the discussion of body- and mind-rejuvenating therapies in The Life Extension Revolution. As Dr. Miller notes, “Even a minor loss of cognitive function is a serious matter, and one that can cause a great deal of emotional distress. Our minds are the thing that makes us most uniquely us, the means by which we interact with the world around us and make our mark in that world. The thought that this might somehow slip away from us as we get older is very disturbing.”
Growing knowledge of the biochemical and energy-producing processes that underlie brain function affords us the opportunity to support those processes through a strategy of lifestyle and behavioral changes, diet, and supplements. Six critical ways to support optimal brain function are: increasing circulation and oxygenation to the brain; enhancing energy production in the brain; promoting neurotransmitter production; maintaining the structural integrity of the neuronal membranes; increasing the size and complexity of the neuronal network; and protecting the brain from oxidative damage.
Along with a program of basic nutritional support and “targeted” brain nutrients such as phosphatidylcholine, ginkgo biloba extract, and acetyl-L-carnitine, Dr. Miller incorporates critical elements such as physical exercise, hormone balancing, mental exercise, and stress reduction in his comprehensive program for promoting brain health.
Life Extension’s Steven Joyal, MD on the Robin Barbero show
Listen to Dr. Steven Joyal live on the Robin Barbero show, Sunday, August 14, 9:00 pm–10:00 pm ET!
Dr. Joyal will be discussing integrative approaches to metabolic disease, obesity, and diabetes.
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