Category Archives: Alzheimer’s Disease

Possible link between zinc deficiency and both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

There’s so much work being done to get to the bottom of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. FoodFacts.com understands how these two heartbreaking conditions affect millions worldwide, slowly changing the lives of those afflicted, eventually resulting in their death. It’s a long, difficult road for most and while science has uncovered more information about both diseases, to date there is no cure. Today we read some fascinating new information that we wanted to share with our community.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have made a discovery that, if replicated in humans, suggests a shortage of zinc may contribute to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which have been linked to defective proteins clumping together in the brain.

With proteins, shape is everything. The correct shape allows some proteins to ferry atoms or molecules about a cell, others to provide essential cellular scaffolding or identify invading bacteria for attack. When proteins lose their shape due to high temperature or chemical damage, they stop working and can clump together – a hallmark of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The UW researchers have discovered another stress that decreases protein stability and causes clumping: a shortage of zinc, an essential metal nutrient.

Zinc ions play a key role in creating and holding proteins in the correct shape. In a study just published in the online Journal of Biological Chemistry, Colin MacDiarmid and David Eide show that the gene Tsa1 creates “protein chaperones” that prevent clumping of proteins in cells with a zinc shortage. By holding proteins in solution, Tsa1 prevents damage that can otherwise lead to cell death.

For simplicity, the researchers studied the system in yeast – a single-celled fungus. Yeast can adapt to both shortages and excesses of zinc, says MacDiarmid, an associate scientist. “Zinc is an essential nutrient but if there’s too much, it’s toxic. The issue for the cell is to find enough zinc to grow and support all its functions, while at the same time not accumulating so much that it kills the cell.”

Cells that are low in zinc also produce proteins that counter the resulting stress, including one called Tsa1.

The researchers already knew that Tsa1 could reduce the level of harmful oxidants in cells that are short of zinc. Tsa1, MacDiarmid says, “is really a two-part protein. It can get rid of dangerous reactive oxygen species that damage proteins, but it also has this totally distinct chaperone function that protects proteins from aggregating. We found that the chaperone function was the more important of the two.”

“In yeast, if a cell is deficient in zinc, the proteins can mis-fold, and Tsa1 is needed to keep the proteins intact so they can function,” says Eide, a professor of nutritional science. “If you don’t have zinc, and you don’t have Tsa1, the proteins will glom together into big aggregations that are either toxic by themselves, or toxic because the proteins are not doing what they are supposed to do. Either way, you end up killing the cell.”

While the medical implications remain to be explored, there are clear similarities between yeast and human cells. “Zinc is needed by all cells, all organisms, it’s not just for steel roofs, nails and trashcans,” Eide says. “The global extent of zinc deficiency is debated, but diets that are high in whole grains and low in meat could lead to deficiency.”

If low zinc supply has the same effect on human cells as on yeast, zinc deficiency might contribute to human diseases that are associated with a build-up of “junked” proteins, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Eide says a similar protective system to Tsa1 also exists in animals, and the research group plans to move ahead by studying that system in human cell culture.

FoodFacts.com wants to remind our community that foods like sardines, chicken, beef, pumpkin seeds, nuts and eggs are good dietary sources of zinc. It’s so important to maintain a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of foods in order to consume all the nutrients we need.  Our total nutrition depends on it. We look forward to hearing more information from these researchers in hopes that it may lead to a better understanding of both these diseases and one day, a cure.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/266855.php

Japan’s transition to a Western diet has increased their risk of Alzheimer’s disease

FoodFacts.com has long held to the old adage, “you are what you eat.” The statement has been sadly illustrated right here in America. As the proliferation of processed foods and beverages in our national diet has become dramatically apparent, so have our levels of obesity, diabetes and heart disease risen sharply. There may be some who consider the correlation a coincidence, but it really is too striking to brush aside. While our diets here in the U.S. have changed, so have the diets of other countries around the world. Japan is no exception. And now, new research is linking a significant increase in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in Japan to changes in their national diet.

The prevalence of AD for those aged 65+ years in Japan rose from 1% in 1985 to 7% in 2008. The prevalence of another major type of dementia, vascular dementia, was nearly constant at 4-5% during the same period.

Previous studies identified a number of risk factors for AD for which values in midlife or 15-30 years prior to diagnosis of AD are predictive: alcohol consumption, elevated cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, dietary fat, obesity, and smoking are associated with increased risk while physical fitness is associated with reduced risk.

In an effort to determine what might be the cause of this dramatic rise in AD prevalence, an investigation of dietary changes in Japan was undertaken. Data for dietary supply were obtained from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The largest changes between 1961 and 1985 included alcohol consumption which doubled during that time frame, animal fat consumption which increased from about 11 lbs. per person per year to about 77 lbs per person per year, and meat consumption (from almost 17 lbs per person per year to about 126 lbs. per person per year. Values for most of these factors have changed only modestly since 1985.

Thus, this study suggests that the nutrition transition in Japan, i.e., switching from the traditional Japanese diet with 15% of the energy derived from animal products and 42% from rice towards the Western diet, is associated with the rapid rise in AD prevalence in Japan. Unless the dietary pattern in Japan returns to the traditional Japanese diet, AD rates in Japan will not decrease.

The important message from this study is that AD rates globally are strongly linked to diet, especially in midlife, and that unless per capita consumption of animal products and total energy is reduced, AD rates will continue to remain high.

So FoodFacts.com continues to see the real life illustrations of “you are what you eat.” Diets are changing worldwide and the health effects on populations around the globe are becoming increasingly apparent. It is our own nutritional awareness that will continue to help us stay committed to healthier lifestyles that can lower our risks for degenerative diseases that can drastically reduce our quality of life as we age.

http://www.newswise.com/articles/trends-in-diet-and-alzheimer-s-disease-during-the-nutrition-transition-in-japan-and-developing-countries

Eating too much red meat may increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease

FoodFacts.com has devoted more than a few blog posts to new information regarding how our dietary choices may affect our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a heartbreaking condition affecting millions around the world, and new research has lead to a better understanding of how the disease develops. While science isn’t close to curing this heartbreaking condition, we are hopeful that the growing body of research is advancing the cause of a cure. Today we read new information we wanted to share with our community.

Eating too much red meat, which raises brain levels of iron, may heighten the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, researchers from the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

As background information, the authors explained that iron can accelerate the damaging reactions of free radicals. Over time, iron builds up in brain gray matter regions and appears to contribute to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related illnesses.

Alzheimer’s disease has been an exceptionally challenging enemy to defeat. Its number 1 risk factor is aging – something none of us can prevent.

Most scientists and specialists agree that Alzheimer’s is caused by one of two proteins: Tau and Beta-amyloid.

As we get older, these two proteins either disrupt signaling between neurons or kill them off.  Team leader, Dr. George Bartzokis and colleagues believe there is a third likely cause of Alzheimer’s – iron accumulation.

Professor Bartzokis and team compared the hippocampus and the thalamus using sophisticated brain-imaging high- and low-field strength MRI instruments. The hippocampus is a brain region that is damaged early on in Alzheimer’s, while the thalamus is only affected during the late stages. The MRI scans showed that iron builds up over time in the hippocampus but not the thalamus. They also saw an association between iron accumulation levels in the hippocampus and tissue damage in that area.

Most scientists concentrate on the accumulation of beta-amyloid or tau that cause the hallmark plaques associated with Alzheimer’s, Bartzokis explained. For a long time, Bartzokis had been saying that the breakdown starts off much further “upstream”.

Communication between neurons is disrupted when myelin, a fatty tissue that coats nerve fibers, is destroyed, promoting the accumulation of plaques. These amyloid plaques then destroy more myelin – a self-perpetuating cascade of destruction. The more the signaling is disrupted, the more the nerve cells die, and the classic signs of Alzheimer’s appear.

“Circumstantial evidence has long supported the possibility that brain iron levels might be a risk factor for age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s,” says Bartzokis.

Iron is vital for cell function. However, too much of it encourages oxidative damage, something to which the brain is particularly susceptible. Bartzokis and team set out to determine whether high tissue iron might cause the tissue breakdown associated with Alzheimer’s. They focused on the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is involved in the formation of memories. They compared the hippocampus to the thalamus, which is relatively unaffected until the very late stages of the disease.

Their MRI technique was able to measure how much brain iron there was in a protein that stores iron – ferritin. The study included 31 Alzheimer’s patients and 68 healthy individuals of the same age.

Measuring iron in the brain is not easy if the patient has Alzheimer’s, because the amount of water in the brain increases as the disease progresses. The more water there is in the brain, the harder it is to detect iron, Bartzokis explained. Bartzokis said “It is difficult to measure iron in tissue when the tissue is already damaged. But the MRI technology we used in this study allowed us to determine that the increase in iron is occurring together with the tissue damage. We found that the amount of iron is increased in the hippocampus and is associated with tissue damage in patients with Alzheimer’s but not in the healthy older individuals – or in the thalamus. So the results suggest that iron accumulation may indeed contribute to the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.” Because the consumption of red meat raises brain levels of iron, the researchers note that too much red meat may, in fact, raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

FoodFacts.com knows that everyone in our community is aware that our healthiest dietary choices equate to a balanced diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and lean protein. We know that conscious eating habits can help us avoid a whole host of health problems, regardless of age. It’s certainly worth noting our consumption of red meat for many reasons. This latest information points to the idea that there can always be “too much of a good thing” – even if you are choosing the leanest cuts of red meat available. Choosing a variety of lean protein sources is an important part of our approach to healthy eating. Awareness and balance are always significant components of our conscious dietary choices to achieve and maintain good health as we age.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265216.php

Possible nutritional help for Alzheimer’s immunity … Vitamin D and Omega-3 may help us fight the disease.

FoodFacts.com found very exciting news regarding the role of nutrition in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a concern for a large portion of the population and robs family’s of their loved ones every day. We’re pleased to see the research being done to combat the disease highlight nutrition as a possible bright light in an otherwise fairly dark landscape.

A small pilot study coming out of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA has identified how Vitamin D3 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids may aid the body’s immune system, enhancing its ability to clear amyloid plaques from the brain. Amyloid plaques are a major feature of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study identified the genes regulated by Vitamin D3 and the Omega-3 Fatty Acid, DHA that might control inflammation and boost plaque clearance. Previous laboratory work by the team helped shed light on how Vitamin D3 can clear amyloid-beta. That’s the abnormal protein in the plaque that builds up in the brains of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease. This new study builds on that research and goes on to highlight the role of Omega-3 DHA.

The researchers took blood samples from a population of Alzheimer’s patients and a population of healthy patients. They isolated macrophages (important immune cells) from the blood. These are the immune cells that absorb amyloid-beta and other waste products in the brain and the rest of the body. Those immune cells were incubated overnight with amyloid-beta — and in addition, some of them were also incubated with an active form of Vitamin D3  and some of them with an active form of Omega-3 Fatty Acid DHA.

The immune cells from Alzheimer’s patients that were incubated with Vitamin D3 and the Omega-3 Fatty Acid DHA had an increased ability ability to absorb the amyloid-beta. They also inhibited the death of the immune cells that is induced by amyloid-beta.

While pleased with the results, researchers pointed out that more study is needed. They seek to clarify the balance of supplementation with Vitamin D3 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids to maximize the clearing of amyloid-beta. They are looking to conduct a larger study to confirm these initial findings.

FoodFacts.com is encouraged by these findings as science seeks to find an answer for this serious and heartbreaking condition affecting older and younger populations worldwide. Nutrition can hold keys to solutions for a variety of different conditions and we are hopeful that this new research points to new hope for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Read more here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130205131629.htm

Vitamin D linked to women’s cognitive health

FoodFacts.com has always appreciated the importance of vitamin intake in the health of the population. Our concerns with the quality of the vitamins and supplements available today have led us to launch our own brand, FoodFacts TRI Nutritionals that meet our high standards for purity and natural ingredients. Needless to say, we pay a lot of attention to news concerning how vitamins affect our lives.

There are two new studies of note that are illustrating how vitamin D may have a direct effect on the cognitive abilities of women as they age. It appears that higher levels of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. This is from research conducted at the Angers University Hospital in France. In another similar study out of the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, researchers found that low levels of vitamin D in older women are linked with a greater risk of cognitive impairment and decline.

The U.S. research analyzed over 6,000 older women. These participants had their vitamin D levels measured during a study dealing with fractures and their cognitive functioning tested by a state examination.

Low levels of vitamin D in these women were associated with a higher risk of cognitive impairment. And for those women who were cognitively impaired, low levels of the vitamin were linked to a larger risk of continued cognitive decline.

The study originating in France considered data from almost 500 older women. These participants were part of an osteoporosis study. The women in the study group who developed Alzheimer’s disease had lower vitamin D intake weekly than those who developed other forms of dementia or no dementia at all.

Studies have been published earlier this year that expressed concern that both men and women are not getting enough vitamin D. Vitamin D can come from diet, supplements or the sun. So there are a number of different opportunities to incorporate it into your life. If you have any concerns about your intake of vitamin D, you should access your sources. If you’re looking for a way to supplement, allow us to suggest FoodFactsTRI Vitamin D. Coming from FoodFacts.com, you’ll know that these supplements contain nothing controversial and the purest ingredients available. Regardless of how you incorporate more of this important vitamin into your life, it’s important for everyone to access their current intake and adjust accordingly!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121130222245.htm

Omega-3 fatty acids and brain benefits

FoodFacts.com was happy to read new research information today regarding omega-3 fatty acids. It’s been known for a while that these essential fatty acids are important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But this new study shows other valuable and fascinating benefits.

There’s now evidence that increasing the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can actually slow down the aging process. New research that focused on over one hundred obese, inactive adults were split into three groups. The first group was given a placebo, another was given a supplement containing 2.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. The other received a supplement with 1.25 grams of omega-3s.

The purpose behind the supplements was to study the effect of they would have on pieces of DNA called telomeres. Telomeres shorten with age and because of this play an important role in the aging process. These are what keep the strands of our DNA from unraveling and also help our cells to divide. When telomeres become too short, it can lead to cell inactivity or death. People over the age of 60 are actually three times more likely to die from heart disease if they haven shortened telomeres.

The results turned out to be quite revealing. It was found that the telomeres in the study participants who improved the ration of omega-3s to the other fatty acids in their diet actually improved the length of their telomeres. The group taking the placebo did not experience the same lengthening.

This is considered especially exciting as there have been previous studies focusing on mice that showed that lengthening their telomeres reversed their aging process. This new research with human participants does suggest a real possibility that omega-3 nutritional supplements could actually make a difference in the way people age. In the study involving mice who were given gene therapy their brain size which had shrunk by as much as 75% returned to normal.

FoodFacts.com is always encouraged to learn about positive health effects that come from natural sources. Anything science can provide us involving how dietary improvements can help us make dramatic changes in the health of our population is an exciting preview into the future.

Read more about this intriguing research:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/03/omega-3-supplements_n_1932903.html

More problems in the war against obesity … brain changes that actually discourage weight loss

FoodFacts.com found more interesting and important information regarding obesity today that we know our community will find valuable.

A new study was released that link the diets that lead to obesity (those high in saturated fats and refined sugars) to brain changes in the obese population that might actually make losing weight much more difficult for these folks than others who aren’t obese. In other words, it may not be about a lack of willpower that prevents the obese from losing weight … it maybe be that their brains are sending messages to their bodies that they need more of the diet that caused their obesity to begin with.

The research was published by Terry Davidson who is the director of American University’s Center for Behavioral Neuroscience. Davison and his researchers focused on the area of the brain where memory and learning live called the hippocampus. They fed two groups of rats differently after training them in two different problems – a problem linked to the learning and memory area of the brain and a problem linked to a different area. Then, one group was fed a low-fat lab chow and the other were given an unlimited diet of high fat and calorie food, or, in other words a diet similar with that which is linked to obesity in humans.

After the diets were fed to the rats consistently, both groups were reintroduced to the original problems they were trained in. The rats who had been fed the high fat and calorie diet did significantly worse on the problems that were linked to the learning and memory area. They tested the same way as the rats fed the low-fat diet on the other problem. In addition, the researchers examined all of the rats’ blood brain barriers. This is the network of blood vessels that protects the brain and keeps things that shouldn’t be in there out. It was apparent that the obese rats’ showed that their blood brain barriers had been compromised, as they found a larger amount of a dye that doesn’t normally cross the barrier.

It appears that these results suggest that obesity impacts the learning and memory center of the brain directly. Further research will need to be done to determine whether humans are impacted similarly. If a high fat and calorie diet compromises the ability of the hippocampus to suppress unwanted thoughts, it’s possible that obese people are consuming larger serving sizes of bad food almost automatically. It’s important to keep in mind that there has already been research that suggests that obesity and Alzheimer’s are linked and that diet and brain function have a large and important relationship.

FoodFacts.com invites you to read more about this fascinating study:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121001171115.htm

Sugar consumption might be responsible for more than obesity problems … Alzheimer’s and our diet

With all of the recent controversy surrounding sugar-sweetened beverages, FoodFacts.com has been busy looking at some of the other information available to us regarding sugar intake in our diets. We found some recent information that revisits an extremely important topic that’s certainly worth showcasing here.

Since 2005 there have been studies done that reflect on the connection between Alzheimer’s Disease and diabetes. It appears the disease may actually be a form of diabetes that could well be brought on by diet.

The studies that have been done focus on insulin. Insulin is released by the body to help cells absorb glucose that’s needed for energy. Our cells can hold a certain amount of sugar and the excess is converted to fat. Blood sugar (glucose) comes from sugar and carbohydrates. Insulin helps to keep our blood vessels healthy and also helps the neurons in our brains to absorb glucose, which strengthens the neurons.

While Type 1 diabetes results from an immune system response that destroys insulin producing cells, Type 2 diabetes results from environmental factors. Type 1 diabetes accounts for about ten percent of diabetic cases – Type 2 accounts for the remainder. Environmental factors are code words here for our diet.

Insulin resistance occurs when a diabetic’s cells don’t respond to the insulin in their bodies. So when the insulin notifies the cells to pick up the glucose in the blood stream, the cells ignore it. The insulin repeatedly notifies the cells when sugary foods are eaten and overloads them with “messages”. The cells become resistant and the process that insulin is responsible for can’t occur. Notably insulin-resistance can cause a diabetic to become disoriented and even lose memories. The neuropathologist whom Alzheimer’s is named for discovered the formation of protein plaques in the brain, replacing normal brain cells. What is being found now, though, is that lack of insulin and insulin resistance is linked to the formation of the plaques found with the disease. Experiments have been performed on rats that blocked the insulin to their brains. The result was that they began exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

It has been shown that diabetics are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. While diabetes isn’t thought to actually cause the debilitating disease, its presence seems to be connected to its development. Type 2 diabetes is a disease people can be genetically predisposed to (as are most diseases that are caused by environmental factors). Since diet is such a powerful influence on their development of Type 2 diabetes, it stands to reason that it is also a powerful influence on the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Sugar is being implicated as a culprit in the current war against obesity. But that seems to be only one of the problems being associated with its over-consumption. It’s not only sugary beverages we need to be concerned with – our food supply is saturated with processed products that contain added sugars. Perhaps greater research and publicity around this issue will capture the attention of consumers and cause real changes to the American diet.

FoodFacts.com invites you to read more:
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/bittman-is-alzheimers-type-3-diabetes/
http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/alzheimers-diabetes-brain
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528801.100-brain-diabetes-the-ultimate-food-scare.html

Boost your vitamin C and beta carotene and you may protect yourself from dementia

FoodFacts.com found great news coming out of Germany today. In a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, new research from the University of Ulm has found that the amount of vitamin C and beta-carotene present in patients suffering from mild dementia was much less than in patients without symptoms. It is actually possible that a person’s diet (and their intake of specific antioxidants) may have an impact on the development of Alzheimer’s Disease.

We know that Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. Forgetfulness and disorientation lead to a patient’s cognitive decline. In this new study, 74 patients with Alzheimer’s were studied along with 158 healthy patients who showed no sign of Alzheimer’s symptoms. It is known that plaques forming in the brain, along with the degeneration of synapses are what cause the disease. The medical community has connected the constraint of oxygen in the body may actually be linked with the development of the disease. And that’s where the idea of antioxidants providing protection came into the picture. So the researchers investigated if there could be differences in the levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lycopene and coenzyme Q10 in folks with mild symptoms of dementia and a population with no symptoms at all.

Results of the study showed definite differences. In fact, it was found that the concentration of vitamin C and beta-carotene in Alzheimer’s patients as much lower than in the population of healthy patients. The levels of vitamin E, lycopene and coenzyme Q10 showed no differences at all between the two populations. The researchers did feel, interestingly, that food storage and preparation and stress levels may have played a part in their findings. They are, therefore, recommending further studies to find out more about how these two antioxidants provide protection for this debilitating disease.

FoodFacts.com encourages our community to continue their quest for good health by including foods rich in Vitamin C and beta-carotene in their diets. Citrus fruits, carrots and spinach are a great place to start. As always, research like this is an exciting insight into how our diets affect our health and may provide the information that can help us fight diseases through nutrition.

Please read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120911103040.htm and http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1112691843/beta-carotene-vitamin-c-could-protect-against-dementia/