What’s the Link Between Nutritional Deficiencies & Dementia?

What’s the Link Between Nutritional Deficiencies & Dementia?

Maintaining proper nutrition is essential for optimal health. Our bodies need more than 30 vitamins and minerals to operate, with these nutrients supporting a host of processes including:

  • Tissue production and regeneration
  • Red blood cell production
  • Nerve signaling
  • Formulating chemical messages

While getting adequate amounts of these vitamins and minerals is important for supporting key body-wide mechanisms on a daily basis, it’s also critical for safeguarding our future health. Nutrition helps us minimize the risk of many serious conditions, one of which is dementia.

Can Nutritional Deficiencies Cause Dementia?

In some elderly patients, healthy dietary practices aren’t always closely followed. This can lead to certain nutritional deficiencies, which can actually cause cognitive impairment over time. Research shows certain forms of dementia can be a direct result of deficiencies in specific vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients. Here are a few nutrients in particular that are necessary for cognitive function:

  • Vitamin B12: Without ample B12, the frontal lobes of the brain become altered, resulting in cognitive or behavioral changes. The vitamin, therefore, supports brain health while playing an important role in maintaining healthy blood and nerve cells. It also aids in the production of DNA. Animal food sources are often rich in B12, including dairy and meat.
  • Niacin: B3 or niacin helps to control cholesterol levels. Elderly individuals are especially at risk of developing pellagra, a B3 deficiency characterized by dementia, dermatitis, and diarrhea. Enriched cereals, seeds, poultry, and redfish are good sources of the vitamin.
  • Thiamin: Also known as vitamin B1, a deficiency in thiamin can cause damage to the nerves and muscles, including the heart. Thiamin also has such a profound effect on cognitive function that some researchers speculate the vitamin could benefit Alzheimer’s patients, but further studies are needed to support this theory. Thiamin is commonly found in eggs, nuts, seeds, beef, and enriched grain products, such as cereals.

In addition, insufficient hydration can lead to nutrition-oriented dementia.

Beyond cognitive symptoms, nutritional deficiencies may also manifest physically in the following ways:

  • Sensorimotor challenges
  • Poor reflexes
  • Extreme thirst
  • Anemia
  • Numbed sense of touch
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Fortunately, these and other nutrition-oriented symptoms can be avoided with a healthy, well-rounded diet. In addition, certain individuals may benefit from supplements if key nutrients can’t be acquired through diet alone. Talk to your doctor if you think you could benefit from a supplement regimen.

Alzheimer’s Disease Study Shows Reduction of Brain Inflammation and Improved Memory

Alzheimer’s Disease Study Shows Reduction of Brain Inflammation and Improved Memory

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia, which means its symptoms get worse over time. Alzheimer’s disease primarily affects memory. People with Alzheimer’s disease first have trouble recalling recent memories, but they eventually lose memories of things that occurred earlier in life. Alzheimer’s disease can also cause irritability, social disengagement, and problems performing tasks of daily living. As the disease worsens, it becomes increasingly difficult to care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and most eventually require full-time care. This article is on an Alzheimer’s Disease study that may bring hope to those seeking an alternative to help manage symptoms or halt progression.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Treatments include cholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine) or memantine.  These drugs may slightly improve cognition or temporarily slow the disease, but they do little to change the overall course of the disease or truly alleviate symptoms. Since Alzheimer’s disease affects over 5 million people in the United States alone, researchers are aggressively pursuing ways to treat the cause of dementia.

The precise cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown; however, the brains of people with the disease have very high levels of a protein called beta-amyloid. This protein can cause inflammation, which is damaging to brain tissue and believed to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.

In the race for a cure, researchers tested the effects of exosomes from mesenchymal stem cells in mice with experimental Alzheimer’s disease study. Without treatment, these Alzheimer’s disease mice have difficulty with various tests of memory and cognition compared to healthy mice of the same age. Astonishingly, mice treated with exosomes retrieved from mesenchymal stem cells showed remarkable improvements in tests of spatial learning, memory, and cognition (e.g. modified Morris water-maze). The exosomes reduced the levels of beta-amyloid protein and beta-amyloid plaques in regions of the brain responsible for learning and memory. The researchers found that these exosomes, taken from the human umbilical cord, contained high amounts of enzymes that break down beta-amyloid proteins. Indeed, treatment with mesenchymal stem cell-derived exosomes reduced brain inflammation (i.e., the exosomes reduced inflammatory cells and inflammatory cytokines). These results apparently indicate treatment with stem cell-derived exosomes reduced brain inflammation, reduced brain beta-amyloid, and improved learning and memory in experimental mice.

More studies will need to be performed in humans to continue research of this treatment and impact in human cases. Nevertheless, given the lack of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, these results are quite impressive. Few treatments, if any, improve memory or reduce beta-amyloid levels and brain inflammation. At best, patients currently hope to slow the progression of the disease and ease symptoms.

Reference: Ding M. et al. (2018). Exosomes Isolated from Human Umbilical Cord Mesenchymal Stem Cells Alleviate Neuroinflammation and Reduce Amyloid-Beta Deposition by Modulating Microglial Activation in Alzheimer’s Disease. Neurochemical Research. 2018, Nov;43(11):2165-2177.

Could Too Much Salt Contribute to Dementia?

Could Too Much Salt Contribute to Dementia?

Experts have been researching the potential causes of dementia for quite some time. Like many conditions, it’s believed to result from a combination of lifestyle, hereditary, and environmental factors. Recently, however, there’s been one dietary factor catching the attention of researchers: excess salt. Discover the connection between table salt and dementia risk below.

Dietary Salt & Cognitive Impairment

According to research published in October 2019 in Nature Neuroscience, a link has been established between excessive salt intake and elevated dementia risk. While experts have long associated poor cerebrovascular function with high salt diets, this new study suggests high sodium levels don’t just restrict blood flow to the brain; they can actually affect tau protein levels in the brain, too.

Tau supports neurons under normal circumstances. It does so by stabilizing microtubules, the structures which carry nutrients to neurons. When tau becomes unstable, it can build up in the brain. The buildup of tau is a hallmark characteristic of Alzheimer’s.

In the rodent study, scientists used nitric oxide to stabilize the tau, which in turn led to normal cognitive function – even though blood flow to the brain was still restricted. This suggests that the tau buildup caused by salt – and not the restricted blood flow – is the true causative agent behind dementia.

Reducing Salt Intake

Based on these findings, experts are now urging individuals to be mindful of their salt intake. Although further research needs to be completed to confirm the connection between sodium and dementia in humans, reducing salt consumption is a good idea anyhow. Excess sodium can accumulate in the blood when the kidneys can no longer keep up with it, which causes the body to hold onto excess water. This, in turn, increases fluid and blood volume, which puts added pressure on the heart and blood vessels. As a result, the risk for blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke increases.

The American Heart Association recommends adults take in no more than 2,300 mg of salt per day, but suggests aiming for an ideal limit of 1,500 mg. The majority of sodium comes from packaged and prepared foods, so making your own meals at home with whole ingredients such as fresh vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein is one of the best ways to reduce salt intake.

Could Alzheimer’s Be Linked to Gum Bacteria?

Could Alzheimer’s Be Linked to Gum Bacteria?

When it comes to chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, experts are consistently exploring new research which could shed light on causative factors. The disease, as with many other serious illnesses, is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors that impact the brain over time. Yet, researchers have recently discovered new findings involving gum bacteria and its potential role in Alzheimer’s, among other conditions.

The Brain-Mouth Connection

According to an article published in Experimental Biology, bacteria involved in gum disease is suspected to have the ability to travel throughout the body. The bacterium, Porphyromonas gingivalis, is the key agent behind periodontitis and is believed to exude toxins connected to Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and aspiration pneumonia. Samples of these bacteria were found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s, and researchers used animal studies to demonstrate how the bacterium can make its way from the mouth to the brain.

The bacteria were more common in the brain samples of Alzheimer’s patients compared to people without the disease of roughly the same age. Its key toxins, called gingipains, were present in these individuals. Based on animal studies, it appears that the migration of the bacteria from the mouth to the brain can be stopped with chemicals that interact with gingipains.

The Critical Importance of Oral Care

Dentists have long urged patients to take caution against periodontitis, the most serious form of gum disease. Left unaddressed, it can lead to tooth loss and can damage the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. Yet, experts now believe that it can also have body-wide effects. Previous research has suggested that it the bacteria that causes the disease could travel through the bloodstream and cause other conditions, such as coronary artery disease or stroke. These newest findings suggest that proper dental care is especially important for individuals with genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease or Rheumatoid Arthritis.

While gum disease is common, it’s often preventable. Although genetic factors may play a role in a person’s likelihood for developing periodontitis, there are many controllable factors which can also be addressed. Avoiding or quitting smoking, brushing and flossing regularly, and having dental cleanings at least once per year are some of the most effective strategies for avoiding gum disease and its potential complications.

Stem Cells Show Promise for Helping Alzheimer’s Disease with Neurodegenerative Disease via Multiple Mechanisms

Stem Cells Show Promise for Helping Alzheimer’s Disease with Neurodegenerative Disease via Multiple Mechanisms

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and though its prevalence is growing, there are currently no medical interventions that are able to reverse or slow the disease. Most current therapies address the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease rather than the underlying cause of the disease.

Stem cells appear to offer a promising opportunity for treating Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, and a recent review published in Current Alzheimer Research has covered research into the ways stem cells can be applied to these disorders. Specifically, the authors of the review discuss the stem cell sources that may offer the potential to treat neurodegenerative diseases and the mechanisms by which these stem cells may confer benefits to this set of patients.

According to data collected so far, stem cells may be both safe and effective in treating neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, but the mechanism by which they produce benefits for those with these disorders is not entirely clear. There are some data that show that the replacement of degenerated tissue with new proliferative stem cells accounts for stem cell benefits in models of neurodegenerative disorders, while other data show that stem cells can lead to advantageous enhancements in the expression of synaptic proteins.

Evidence from other studies, however, suggest that stem cells help with neurodegenerative disease through the release of neurotrophic factors that lead to paracrine benefits. Additional studies point to modulation of the immune system as the way that stem cells may help those with neurodegenerative disorders.

Future research will help to elucidate the specific mechanisms by which stem cells can provide effective therapy for people with neurodegenerative disorders. It may be the case that a variety of stem cell types used in multiple ways can be helpful for neurodegenerative disease therapy, and research will help to delineate the different ways stem cells can be used and inform the therapies that are developed.

 

Reference: Bali, P, et al. (2017). Potential for stem cells therapy in Alzheimer’s disease: Do neurotrophic factors play a critical role? Current Alzheimer Research, 14(2), 208-220.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease causes patients to have difficulty recalling memories and performing tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, which means it gets worse over time. Once Alzheimer’s disease begins, patients either stay the same or get worse. Most people notice symptoms getting worse over a period of 10 years. However, some people with Alzheimer’s disease will get worse very rapidly, over the course of a few years.

Because Alzheimer’s disease is discussed frequently in popular media, many people know that part of the disease process is the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain, namely beta-amyloid plaques and tau neurofibrillary tangles. One less well-known effect of Alzheimer’s disease is that it interferes with blood flow in the brain. This decreased blood flow is so common, in fact, that doctors can detect low brain activity using positron emission tomography (PET), which can help make the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Between 2002 and 2012, researchers tested 244 treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, and only one medication was approved by the FDA. After all this time, there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease are mostly ineffective. At best, they slow the progression of the disease for several months to a few years.

This lack of success has prompted several research groups to focus on other treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. One experimental treatment for Alzheimer’s disease is hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In hyperbaric oxygen therapy, patients rest in a specialized chamber while they experience oxygen at a slightly higher pressure than they would in the outside world.

Researchers wanted to determine whether hyperbaric oxygen therapy could improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, but also whether they could see those brain changes using PET. To do this, Drs. Harch and Fogarty enrolled a woman with rapidly deteriorating Alzheimer’s disease in their clinical study. She was exhibiting the characteristic signs of Alzheimer’s disease and reduced brain activity and blood flow in her brain. They treated her with a series of hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments (1.15 atmospheres, 40 minutes, 5 days per week over 66 days).

After 21 treatments, the woman had increased energy, her mood was better, she was better able to perform activities of daily living, and she was actually performing crossword puzzles. After 40 hyperbaric oxygen treatments, she had better memory and concentration, she was sleeping better, her appetite had improved, she was able to hold conversations and able to use a computer.

Interestingly, when the researchers performed follow-up PET study after hyperbaric oxygen therapy, blood flow and brain activity improved as much as 38% compared to the PET study before treatment.

Additional clinical studies with larger groups of Alzheimer’s disease patients are needed to determine how effective hyperbaric oxygen therapy is, what pressure to use, and how many treatments are needed, etc. Nonetheless, the impressive changes reported in this case study are promising, and should spark additional clinical research.

Contact a Stemedix Care Coordinator for more information on Regenerative Medince Therapy combined with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Reference: Harch et al. (2019). Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for Alzheimer’s dementia with positron emission tomography imaging: a case report. Medical Gas Research. 2019 Jan 9;8(4):181-184.

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