Published On: Tue, Sep 27th, 2016

Brain Nutrients Improve Cognitive Decline Associated with Alzheimer’s

If you have ever cared for a loved one affected by Alzheimer’s disease, you know it is a devastating form of dementia. Individuals who suffer from this disease often live in a state of general disorientation and become stripped of the ability to think clearly and perform everyday tasks. Can you imagine anything more terrifying than not knowing where or who you are?

Unfortunately, the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease is growing rapidly. In 2016, there are an estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages living with Alzheimer’s disease. These numbers are projected to escalate rapidly in coming years, as the generation of baby boomers begins to reach the age range of greatest risk of Alzheimer’s, 65 and beyond. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may nearly triple to a projected 13.8 million.

While there is currently no ‘cure’ for the disease, Alzheimer’s is on the forefront of biomedical research. Ninety percent of what is known about Alzheimer’s disease has been discovered only in the last 15 years, with some of the most remarkable progress revealing how Alzheimer’s affects the brain.

Two abnormal structures, known as plaques and tangles, are prime suspects in damaging and killing nerve cells in the brain. Plaques are deposits of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid that build up in the spaces between nerve cells, while tangles are twisted fibers of the tau protein, which build up inside cells. Though most people develop some plaques and tangles as they age, those with Alzheimer’s tend to develop far more.

While the role of plaques and tangles in Alzheimer’s disease is not completely understood, most experts believe they somehow play a critical role in blocking communication among nerve cells and disrupting processes that cells need to survive. It’s the destruction and death of nerve cells that causes memory failure, personality changes, problems carrying out daily activities and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists are looking into strategies for preventing cognitive decline and others symptoms associated with Alzheimer ’s disease. A recent study investigated the effects of dietary supplementation on mice with identified genetic predispositions for Alzheimer’s disease. The mice in the study possessed mutations in the genes encoding amyloid precursor protein-presenilin (APP-PSN) which results in the inherited forms of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The study was performed as follows.

A total of 72 mice with the genetic mutation were randomly assigned to three groups. The model group was given unsupplemented chow while the other two groups were given a combination of nutrients including phosphatidylserine, blueberry extracts, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in either high or low doses as part of their diet.

After three and seven months of treatment, cognitive performance was assessed and biochemical parameters and oxidative stress were evaluated in both the blood and the brain. Those groups that received supplemented chow showed an increase in antioxidant capacity at three months while superior behavioral test results were seen in the high supplement dosage group. In the group that did not receive supplementation with their chow, pycnosis, or shrinking of the cellular nuclei was observed along with loss of nerves in the cerebral cortex (the outer layer of brain tissue) and hippocampus (the major center of the brain for memory, learning and emotion).

At seven months, the β-amyloid plaque accumulation was significantly elevated in the mice that did not receive supplementation, but was markedly lower in the mice supplemented with the combination of nutrients. Antioxidant capacity and behavioral test scores were also higher in the supplemented mice.

This study clearly demonstrates that supplementation with the nutrients phosphatidylserine, blueberry extract, DHA and EPA should be considered as an effective strategy for improving cognitive decline and managing symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

If you or a loved one is suffering from dementia or there is a familial history of Alzheimer’s disease, supplementing with these brain boosting nutrients is a must. After all, a memory is a terrible thing to lose.

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