Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Oct 2009

Are You Safe from Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Decline?

Doctors agree that warding off cognitive decline requires early prevention. A new study demonstrates that a multi-modal nutrient cocktail improves clinical measurements of cognitive function in only two weeks.

By Robert Haas, MS

Are You Safe from Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Decline?

Did you know that someone in the US develops Alzheimer’s disease about every 70 seconds?

Or that an estimated 23% of people over 65 years of age already suffer from mild cognitive impairment?

Worse, even if you’re in the “prime of your life,” you may not be spared: approximately 500,000 Americans under age 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s disease—or some form of dementia.2

These facts underscore the terrifying prospect that Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive decline may loom for anyone over forty. While modern medicine remains focused on disease treatment, its understanding of how to maintain robust cognitive function remains largely elusive.

The sad reality is we still do not know how to halt the progression of this brain wasting disease once its clinical emergence has been detected. Meanwhile, the incidence and prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other common forms of dementia. . .are rising steadily.

A recent breakthrough clinical trial conducted by Israeli scientists,3 suggests that specific neuroprotective and neurotrophic compounds can play a vital role in maintaining healthy brain function as we age.

In this article, you’ll learn how these natural ingredients work—individually and together—to prevent and to restore the loss of essential cognitive abilities.

Real Hope for Preserving Cognitive Function

What could possibly lie behind the unprecedented increase in cognitive decline in the United States and other industrialized nations? One key may be that increased levels of inflammation and cellular oxidative damage found in most aging people are accompanied by cognitive dysfunction and motor performance—even in the absence of neurodegenerative diseases.4

Neurologists who treat Alzheimer’s disease and other common forms of dementia agree that to insure good mental health as we age, we must take proactive measures to protect our brain health decades before the onset of the symptoms of cognitive decline begin.

Real Hope for Preserving Cognitive Function

The need is so grave that one leading health expert has warned: “It is extremely unlikely that we will be able to substantially reduce the morbidity and disability associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease without having a preventive, especially primary prevention, strategy.”5

Anti-aging scientists have long recognized the need for a multi-component ‘cocktail’ to deal with the diverse etiology of cognitive decline. To address this need, Life Extension® researchers tested cutting-edge ingredients in accordance with the latest information on the underlying causes of brain aging. Their investigations were based on a unique and synergistic multi-ingredient model.

Drug companies are discouraged by FDA regulations from developing multi-component products that contain both drugs and dietary supplements. According to the FDA, a pharmaceutical product can either be a drug or a dietary supplement, but it can’t be both. The agency considers existing drugs combined with dietary supplements as new drugs that require further FDA approval—a prohibitively expensive and time-consuming process that would substantially diminish the profits of an existing FDA-approved drug. As a result, single-agent drugs remain the de facto standard of care in the US for treating cognitive decline.

Fortunately, nutraceuticals and other dietary supplements remain exempt from the very FDA regulations that discourage drug manufacturers from developing innovative multi-component products. This provided Life Extension® scientists the freedom to research cognitive-enhancing nutrients by combining a number of natural brain-boosting ingredients that would act synergistically to promote healthy brain function and to attack cognitive decline on multiple levels.

As borne out by the results of a recent Israeli clinical trial, the efforts of Life Extension® scientists were well spent: study investigators who measured mental improvement in men and women between the ages of 70-80 given a daily dose of these ingredients were“shown to improve cognitive abilities related to attention, learning, memory and complex activities of daily living following only two weeks of supplementation. These observations were maintained or even amplified by the end of the study.” The study’s investigators concluded that these ingredients actually showed “beneficial effects emphasized by the high magnitude of the improvement experienced by most of the participants.”4

Neuroprotective Compounds That Promote Healthy Cognitive Function

The Israeli clinical trial demonstrated a high degree of efficacy and safety of these ingredients by showing a significant improvement in neurological functions known to deteriorate as we age. Let’s examine these individual natural ingredients to understand how they protect against cognitive decline and restore healthy brain function—properties that may help prevent or forestall the neurodegenerative processes that often lead directly to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine (A-GPC)

Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine (A-GPC) supports synthesis of an essential neurotransmitter while boosting memory function. A-GPC can forestall, stabilize, and even partially reverse cognitive impairment in the early stages of senile dementia.6

A-GPC is present in all cells of the body and in human breast milk.7 Studies suggest that taking A-GPC can increase brain levels of acetylcholine,8 which is known to improve cognitive function. A-GPC plays an essential role in nerve cell growth and repair and in improving the learning and memory capacity of lab animals.9

The clinical efficacy of A-GPC was tested in an open multicenter trial in 2,044 patients suffering from recent stroke or transient ischemic attack (a mild form of stroke). A-GPC was administered after the neurological event at a daily dose of 1,000 mg intramuscularly for 28 days and orally at a dose of 400 mg three times a day during the 5 months following the first phase.10 This trial confirmed the therapeutic role of A-GPC in supporting the cognitive recovery of patients who have suffered an acute stroke or transient ischemic attack.

What You Need to Know
  • Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine (A-GPC)
    As adults age, they become increasingly vulnerable to brain aging and its consequences, including impaired memory and progressive loss of cognitive function that can lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
  • Maintaining good mental health throughout life requires early intervention decades before the onset of the symptoms of cognitive decline.
  • A proactive and preventive approach to preserving and enhancing cognitive function using multiple natural products may help many people avoid Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
  • A well researched cocktail of multiple ingredients underwent a recent Israeli clinical trial which produced dramatic and significant results in cognitive improvement in as little as two weeks.
  • The ingredients used in the Israeli study and numerous other studies strongly suggest that these neuroprotective and neurotrophic compounds play a vital role in preventing and restoring loss of healthy brain functions as we age.
  • The ingredients tested in the Israeli study act on multiple levels to work synergistically to prevent cognitive decline and restore healthy brain functions.
  • The Israeli clinical trial demonstrated that even men and women 70-80 years of age who suffered from mild cognitive impairment could experience measurable improvement in various cognitive functions using these ingredients over a 12-week period.

Phosphatidylserine (PS)

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a ubiquitous phospholipid found within the inner cell membrane that regulates a variety of neuroendocrine responses, including the release of acetylcholine, dopamine, and noradrenaline.11 PS has displayed the ability to influence tissue responses to inflammation to act as an effective antioxidant, especially in response to iron-induced oxidation.11 Studies have shown that by stimulating production of acetylcholine, PS can improve the condition of patients experiencing age-associated memory impairment or cognitive decline.12-14 Research has also proven that PS supplementation may provide additional benefits for mood,15 memory,15 and cognition.14 PS may be even more effective when combined with the omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).16 For example, a PS-DHA combination has been shown to improve age-associated memory impairment and cognitive decline.17

Vinpocetine

Vinpocetine, derived from the periwinkle flower Vinca minor, has been prescribed in Europe for decades to treat the symptoms of age-related memory impairment. Studies have shown that vinpocetine enhances metabolism and blood flow in the brain and may provide improvement for patients with vascular dementia and ischemic stroke.18-21

Vinpocetine stimulates the brain’s use of glucose and oxygen by improving poor cerebral blood flow.22 It also increases electrical conductivity between nerve cells and supports the activity of nerve pathways related to mental alertness.23 When combined with the popular herb ginkgo biloba, vinpocetine speeds the processing of short-term working memory in normal adults.24

One study that investigated blood flow in patients with ischemic stroke and mild cognitive impairment found that vinpocetine improved the cerebrovascular blood reserve capacity in patients and favorably influenced the cognitive status and the general condition of patients. The authors of this study recommended the use of vinpocetine for the treatment of patients with mild cognitive impairment.25

Another study showed that vinpocetine enhanced vasodilation (relaxation of blood vessels) and improved vascular disease-related cognitive dysfunction secondary to reduced blood flow in the cerebral cortex.26 In a review of several preliminary controlled studies of older adults with memory impairment related to poor brain circulation or dementia, the study’s authors found suggestive evidence that vinpocetine produced more improvement in tests of attention, concentration, and memory than placebo.27 In a controlled clinical trial of 203 patients with mild-to-moderate dementia, 30 or 60 mg of vinpocetine taken daily for four months was well tolerated and associated with improvement in cognitive performance and decreased severity of illness, relative to placebo.28

Vinpocetine may protect against some of the damage related to ischemic stroke. Two studies reveal that vinpocetine was able to prevent release of potentially toxic glutamate and free radicals in the brain.18,29 Vinpocetine should not be used with Coumadin® (warfarin) or other blood thinners except by a physician’s recommendation.

Grape Seed Extract and Soy Lecithin Phosphatides

Grape Seed Extract and Soy Lecithin Phosphatides

Phosphatides from soy lecithin enhance the uptake and distribution of grape seed polyphenols to targeted brain tissues. Once in the brain, grape seed proanthocyanidins trap damaging hydroxyl free radicals that can oxidize DNA and essential brain lipids.30,31 Such lipids make up the outer lipid membrane of trillions of brain cells. Grape seed extract polyphenols coupled with soy lecithin improve age-related cognitive deterioration and reduce age-related oxidative damage and cerebral amyloid deposition32 while improving blood circulation in the brain.

Wild Blueberry Extract

Blueberry anthocyanins are highly potent antioxidants that possess important neurological properties such as inducing specific changes in memory centers of the brain that result in improved cognitive performance.33,34

Wild Blueberry Extract

Studies show that blueberry extracts exert the same anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities as the whole fruit.35 Anthocyanidin molecules from such extracts have been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, making them accessible to neurons, thereby improving memory.36 Other studies show that blueberry extracts can reverse the decline of memory impairment associated with free radical damage and beta-amyloid plaques in the brain.37-40

In one study, scientists discovered that blueberry-fed rats performed significantly better on tests of object recognition memory than a control group, suggesting that supplementation with blueberries restored youthful levels of function in the aging brain.41 Rats fed blueberries had significantly lower levels of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB) compared to controls. When NF-kB levels were lower, rats scored higher on memory tests. NF-kB, a protein that is linked with the buildup of damaging free radicals and infectious agents in the body, switches on the genes that produce inflammation. As we age, NF-kB expression increases, promoting systemic inflammation that has been linked with such degenerative diseases as atherosclerosis, arthritis, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herb that helps prevent the breakdown of the brain neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.42 Ashwagandha has been shown to protect brain regions, such as the hippocampus, that are vital for memory function.43,44 Ashwagandha also helps modulate cortisol levels in response to stress.45

Uridine-5-Monophosphate (UMP)

UMP is a building block of phosphatidylcholine, which is essential to neuronal cell membrane function.46,47 UMP supports development of vital memory-related brain structures and improves cognitive and memory function in a variety of animal models.48 One such animal study found that UMP supplementation alleviated cognitive dysfunction that affects spatial strategies for task solving in environmentally impoverished rats.49

Additional Botanical Ingredients

Concentrated standardized extracts of hops, ginger, and rosemary suppress pro-inflammatory cytokines that have been associated with age-related cognitive decline.50,51 Rosemary extract contains carnosic acid, which provides multi-faceted protection against free radicals that can impair healthy memory function.52,53

Highlights of the Recent Israeli Clinical Trial

A recent Israeli clinical trial showed that a proprietary cognitive supplement containing synergistic neuroprotective and neurotrophic compounds can significantly improve memory and restore loss of essential mental skills in men and women 70-80 years of age.4 The study’s investigators were able to measure this remarkable improvement just two weeks after participants began cognitive nutraceutical therapy.

The Israeli study was an open-label (all study participants were aware they were taking this cocktail of multiple ingredients) clinical trial of 26 elderly male and female volunteers with memory impairment treated for 12 weeks with a proprietary cognitive nutraceutical combination (3 capsules/day). Subjects’ cognitive performance was assessed by a computerized cognitive assessment battery at baseline, following 2 weeks of treatment, and again at the 12-week termination point. This diagnostic tool included seven separate tasks found in most neuropsychological tests currently used for assessing cognition. The percent of patients scoring above the norm for this age group was determined at each time point, allowing the investigators to track the success of the proprietary cognitive supplement.

On tests of sustained attention and visuospatial learning after 12 weeks of treatment, 31% and 54% of subjects scored above the norm for their age group, compared with less than 20% and 5% at baseline. At this time, a significant enhancement was observed in subjects’ capability to complete activities of daily living. This enhancement is represented by an increase of 39% and 46% in the percent of subjects performing above the norm at the end of the study, in comparison with baseline performance. Most importantly, a preponderance of subjects showed highly improved scores on all cognitive tests over baseline, ranging from 50% on tests of executive function to 61% on tests of mental flexibility and visual learning.

Importantly, this clinical trial found that these ingredients were highly effective in improving numerous cognitive functions in almost all of the study’s participants.

Summary

We are in the midst of an epidemic of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Due to advances in life expectancy, aging Baby Boomers and their parents face unprecedented mass cognitive decline, staggering health-care costs, increased caregiver responsibilities, and profound disability if this epidemic cannot be stopped.

An abundance of scientific evidence suggests that a number of natural compounds can be used to safely and effectively stimulate brain energy metabolism, increase blood circulation, boost acetylcholine levels, and protect against inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain.

By taking advantage of recent advances in our understanding of how these natural neurotrophic and neuroprotective compounds support brain function, health-conscious adults can make informed decisions about using specific nutrients to protect their aging brains and to help correct cognitive deficits, should they occur.

Results of a recent clinical trial that treated a group of elderly men and women with a multi-nutrient cocktail suggest that daily use of the natural agents can support healthy brain function and restore essential cognitive functions known to deteriorate in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Correction of deficits in memory, spatial relationships, and executive function were seen within two weeks of initiating the study with these various ingredients, and were further augmented by the end of the 12-week study.

These clinically tested ingredients were found to possess a safety profile that far surpasses any prescription drug currently approved to treat dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, its multiple synergistic ingredients can support healthy brain function as no single-agent drug approved to treat Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can do.

The data from this impressive study points to the conclusion that use of these various ingredients can benefit healthy cognitive function.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at
1-866-864-3027.

References

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