Acidity Impairs Brain Function

New research suggests that a pH imbalance in our bodies can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. Once again, it appears that smart nutrition can prevent and treat neurodegenerative disease.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine announced that a simple imbalance in acid-alkaline levels inside endosomes, which feed cells, including astrocytes in our brain. Astrocytes help remove neurotoxins from the brain. To be precise, they remove harmful amyloid beta proteins (plaque) from the spaces between neurons. If these toxic proteins build up around neurons, it contributes to neurodegeneration, which causes Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, depending on which region of the brain is impacted first.

The new study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also reports that the scientists gave drugs called histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors to pH-imbalanced mice cells engineered with a common Alzheimer’s gene variant. The experiment successfully reversed the pH problem and improved the capacity for amyloid beta clearance.

“By the time Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed, most of the neurological damage is done, and it’s likely too late to reverse disease progression,” says Rajini Rao, Ph.D., professor of physiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “That’s why we need to focus on the earliest pathological symptoms or markers of Alzheimer’s disease, and we know that the biology and chemistry of endosomes is an important factor long before cognitive decline begins.”

Nearly 20 years ago, scientists at Johns Hopkins and New York University discovered that endosomes, circular compartments that ferry cargo within cells, are larger and far more abundant in brain cells of people destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease. This hinted at an underlying problem with endosomes that could lead to an accumulation of amyloid protein in spaces around neurons, says Rao.

Endosomes remove toxins from the brain.

Whether this binding occurs depends on the proper pH level inside the endosome. Embedded in the endosome membrane these proteins shuttle protons in and out of cell. The amount of protons inside the endosome determines its pH. When fluids in the endosome become too acidic, the protons are trapped within the endosome where they can build up and become toxic.

To help determine whether such pH imbalances occur in Alzheimer’s disease, Johns Hopkins graduate student Hari Prasad scoured scientific studies of Alzheimer’s disease looking for genes that were dialed down in diseased brains compared with normal ones. Comparing a dataset of 15 brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients with 12 normal ones, he found that 10 of the 100 most frequently down-regulated genes were related to the proton flow in the cell.

In another set of brain tissue samples from 96 people with Alzheimer’s disease and 82 without it, gene expression of the proton shuttle in endosomes, known as NHE6, was approximately 50 percent lower in people with Alzheimer’s disease compared with those with normal brains. In cells grown from people with Alzheimer’s disease and in mouse astrocytes engineered to carry a human Alzheimer’s disease gene variant, the amount of NHE6 was about half the amount found in normal cells.

To measure the pH balance within endosomes without breaking open the astrocyte, Prasad and Rao used pH sensitive probes that are absorbed by endosomes and emit light based on pH levels. They found that mouse cell lines containing the Alzheimer’s disease gene variant had more acidic endosomes (average of 5.37 pH) than cell lines without the gene variant (average of 6.21 pH).

“Without properly functioning NHE6, endosomes become too acidic and linger inside astrocytes, avoiding their duties to clear amyloid beta proteins,” says Rao.

While it’s likely that changes in NHE6 happen over time in people who develop sporadic Alzheimer’s disease, people who have inherited mutations in NHE6 develop what’s known as Christianson syndrome in infancy and have rapid brain degeneration.

Prasad and Rao also found that a protein called LRP1, which picks up amyloid beta proteins outside the astrocyte and delivers them to endosomes, was half as abundant on the surface of lab grown mouse astrocytes engineered with a human gene variant called APOE4, commonly linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Looking for ways to restore the function of NHE6, Prasad searched databases of yeast studies to find that HDAC inhibitors tend to increase expression of the NHE6 gene in yeast. This gene is very similar across species, including flies, mice and humans.

Prasad and Rao tested nine types of HDAC inhibitors on cell cultures of mouse astrocytes engineered with the APOE4 gene variant. Broad-spectrum HDAC inhibitors increased NHE6 expression to levels associated with mouse astrocytes that did not have the Alzheimer’s gene variant. They also found that HDAC inhibitors corrected the pH imbalance inside endosomes and restored LRP1 to the astrocyte surface, resulting in efficient clearance of amyloid beta protein.

Astrocytes normally clear the amyloid β proteins between neurons, however if this process becomes skewed, the proteins build up around neurons, leading to the characteristic amyloid plaques and nerve cell degeneration that are the hallmarks of memory-destroying Alzheimer’s disease. Acidification of the body and brain seem to have an impact on astrocytes and their cleansing function within the brain.

In order to perform their normal physiological functions, it is important that cells maintain the intracellular pH within the physiological range. Intracellular enzyme activity, cytoskeleton component integration, and cellular growth and differentiation rates are all closely associated with the intracellular pH. It has been demonstrated that in nervous system diseases, such as ischemic stroke, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the common characteristics are decreased pH or acidosis at both tissular and cellular levels. Particularly, some AD-associated enzymes will have altered activities under acidic conditions. We inferred that aging or ischemia may cause intracellular acidification. This acidification not only induces apoptosis but also substantially alters enzyme activities and promotes the development of AD or vascular dementia. The hypothesis of an intracellular pH role in sporadic AD or vascular dementia will be discussed in this paper. If confirmed, this hypothesis may lead to the formulation of new pathogenesis and new therapeutic approaches to AD or vascular dementia.

An Alkaline Diet Can Help With Dementia

The brain operates on chemical and electrical signals driven by the cells creating enough energy to drive enzymatic reactions inside cells.  When cells are unable to produce sufficient levels of energy, our brain function begins to decline. Dementia describes significant deterioration in cognitive functioning, like memory, speech, spatial reasoning, problem solving, and other daily thinking skills caused by persistent cellular damage over decades.  The inflammation within the blood has become increasingly too high, and is not adequately controlled by a sufficient number of thriving cells. Full-blown brain deterioration (aka., dementia) begins to negatively impair a person’s and his support system’s quality of life.
The brain uses more oxygen relative to its size than any other part of the body. It is exposed to every toxin, free radical oxygen ion, and wayward chemical compound in the body. An acidic diet exposes the brain to more toxins without sufficient fuel available to help repair the damage caused. It appears that acidity contributes to the buildup of toxic proteins in the brain.

An alkaline diet gives the cells high levels of sustainable fuel to start rebuilding. A healthy human body produces new neurons and neurotransmitters (the feeling within scar tissue is a prime example). The proper pH level improves cognitive function, while slowing the rate of neurogeneration, if not preventing it.

In addition to improving our body’s ability to purge toxins, an alkaline diet helps decrease waste caused by acids in the body. Chinese medicine discovered long ago that certain foods lowered the pH of urine, which helped treat kidney stones.

An alkaline diet restricts high-protein foods from animal sources. Grain products, meats, dairy products, fish, and alkali-poor and low-phosphorus beverages (e.g., pale beers, cocoa) have relatively high acid loads. It also advises against alcohol, sugar, caffeine, and processed food. An alkaline diet also limits GMO items such as soy, corn, wheat, bread, potatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplant, and tomatoes since they cause an acidic reaction from overconsumption. Dairy products are alkaline in nature, but they become acidic in our gut.

Increased blood acidity leads to inflammation throughout the body. Excess inflammation also impairs brain function and may contribute to neurodegenerative disease.  

An alkaline diet is heavy on items naturally rich in water. For instance, any items which when cooked easily changes its shape is alkaline. Nutrients, minerals, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein are more bio-available (aka., easily extracted) from these foods. Fruits, vegetables, fruit juices, potatoes, and alkali-rich and low phosphorus beverages (red and white wine, mineral soda waters) have a negative acid load. 

The most alkaline items include green vegetables, legumes (small versus bigger beans), ancient whole grains (i.e., quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat), fruits. Mixing these foods with certain spices, such as black pepper, can increase their bioavailability.

Some believe that an alkaline diet also can help prevent and cure some forms of cancer. The theory is that cancer requires an acidic host to survive. Medical experts suggest keeping your body’s pH level around 7.35 to 7.45. You can find test strips at some pharmacies or order them online.

There are many causes of neurodegenerative disease, including genetics, head trauma and neurotoxins. Smart nutrition, exercise and the truth are your best defense.

Alzheimer's disease treatment

Preview and order the eBook now to defend yourself and your family. There is no prevention or cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but smart nutrition can save your life. If you have brain disease, nutrition is your best hope for treatment.

Gary Chandler is a prion expert. He is the CEO of Crossbow Communications, author of several books and producer of documentaries about health and environmental issues around the world. Chandler is connecting the dots to the global surge in neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and other forms of prion disease. The scientific name for prion disease is transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.