Alzheimer’s Disease Research
“Alzheimer’s disease afflicts 5.3 million people in America alone,” said Dr. Stanley Prusiner, who earned the Nobel Prize for Physiology in 1998. He characterized the deadly proteins (prions) at the heart of the global epidemic of neurodegenerative disease.
“Each year, about 500,000 people die with cancer and about the same number die with Alzheimer’s. Yet, Alzheimer’s disease research receives only $450 million annually from the National Institutes of Health, about 1/15th of the amount devoted to cancer research. We urgently need to increase funding to make substantial breakthroughs,” he said.
Alzheimer’s disease research has generated more questions than answers. Some scientists are investigating connections between diet and Alzheimer’s, while others are looking for nutritional-based cures. For example, some Alzheimer’s researchers are studying turmeric, folic acid and Vitamin D3 as deterrents. The immune-stimulation effects of vitamin D3 in combination with curcumin (found in the spice turmeric), seems to help purge some of the protein buildup in the brain. Both vitamin D and curcumin help fight Alzheimer’s disease independently. They might accomplish even more when used together to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease research indicates that foods rich in B12 and Omega 3 fats might lower one’s risk of acquiring the disease. Coconut oil and blueberries also are beneficial. Alpha-lipoic acid supplements show early promise in clinical studies. It also helps reduce brain inflammation. University of South Florida’s Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute researchers recently received a $250,000 grant from a private foundation to conduct what is thought to be the first clinical trial of the effects of coconut oil on mild to moderate cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
New Alzheimer’s disease research from China indicates that melatonin supplements can prevent the development and slow the onset of dementia. Melatonin protects neurons from protein toxicity and prevents protein formations such as fibrils in the brain. Melatonin is a hormone found in plants, animals and microbes. It decreases with age within patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s researchers in the U.K. claim that sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, can trigger a number of neurological conditions, including dementia. (As you have noticed, protein is a common theme in this battle for the brain.) Writing in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, Dr. Marios Hadjivassilou stated, “Gluten sensitivity can be primarily, and at times exclusively, a neurological disease.”
Drugs known as anti-TNF blockers, already in use as a powerful therapy for rheumatoid arthritis, could offer hope against Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists in the U.S. showed that people with arthritis who take these drugs have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s. One drug, Etanercept®, decreased the risk of developing the disease by 70 percent, according to Dr. Richard Chou of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. This drug targets inflammation, which might keep the body’s immune system in check and keep it from over-producing “recovery” proteins.
According to Dr. James Duke, affectionately referred to as “Uncle Sam’s medicine man,” plant-based nutrition offers hope. One of Duke’s books, The Green Pharmacy, has a chapter devoted to Alzheimer’s disease. He prescribes diets that include rosemary, horse balm, Brazil nuts, dandelion, fava beans, sage, ginkgo, stinging nettle and willow. He says that rosemary and horse balm have compounds that preserve acetylcholine, the vital brain chemical behind cognition and reasoning. He notes that while the pharmaceutical tacrine hydrocloride (cognex) preserves acetylcholine and reportedly slows the progression of Alzheimer’s, the natural herb horse balm has compounds that do likewise, along with compounds that can cross the blood brain barrier. A horse balm shampoo might work nearly as well as FDA approved tacrine. It would probably be safer, easier on the liver and a whole lot cheaper (simply add several droppers full of horse balm tincture to your favorite herbal shampoo).
Elsewhere, scientists such as Claudio Soto, University of Texas, has concluded that deadly prions are in the urine of those who have prion disease. His research is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the transmissibility and mismanagement of prion disease.
Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and the prion disease epidemic is one of our special areas of practice.