Healthy Aging

Avoiding Alzheimer’s Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond – Part 2 of 2

A proactive approach to reducing the risk of dementia

In Part 2 of this two-part series, we investigate some botanicals and additional supplements which complement nutritional and lifestyle factors for the prevention of cognitive decline. Also, you may want to listen to Dr. Decker’s live interview with Natural Medicine Journal on the topic of cognitive health titled “A Proactive Approach to Reducing Dementia Risk: Maintaining a Healthy Brain Today, Tomorrow, and Years to Come.

Choline and brain health

The brain is comprised of fatty tissue and especially rich in phosphatidylcholine (PC). The body can synthesize PC from a substance called citicoline, also known as CDP-choline.[1] Citicoline and phosphatidylcholine both support the integrity and functionality of the brain. Choline, which can be derived from either of these substances, enhances synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in memory and learning.

Citicoline has been studied in populations having memory-related issues ranging from mild cognitive impairment to vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A comprehensive review of 14 double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials found that citicoline has positive effects on memory and behavior in the short to medium term, and recommended that studies of longer duration be conducted.[2] Citicoline has even been shown to significantly improve cognitive performance and other parameters associated with brain health in individuals with a significant genetic-associated risk of developing dementia.[3]

Botanicals that support the brain

Because inflammation plays a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, supplements that help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress can be helpful. This is one mechanism via which things like essential fatty acids may support cognitive health as well.[4]

Curcumin has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and accumulation of the beta amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.[5] Curcumin has been shown to improve working memory,[6] attention, and reduce cognitive decline in healthy elderly patients,[7] and studies have also shown it helps to reduce depression as well.[8] Of course, making sure the curcumin is bioavailable is important: research suggests that the best bioavailability can be obtained with a molecular dispersion process that enhances the water dispersion of fat-soluble ingredients. This technique yields six times higher absorption than the commonly used curcumin phytosome found in many supplements.[9]

Curcumin has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and accumulation of the beta amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Huperzine A, an extract from the club moss Huperzia serrata, acts as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, which also happens to be one mechanism of medications which address dementia.  Huperzine A also may help prevent dementia by decreasing production of the beta amyloid plaques,[10] and has been shown to protect the cells in the brain from oxidative stress and dysfunction by other mechanisms as well.[11] Huperzine A has been shown to significantly improve cognitive function in people with vascular dementia,[12] as well as cognition, mood, and performance of day-to-day activities in those with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.[13],[14]

Ginkgo biloba also has been studied in many clinical trials in the setting of dementia. As a botanical, we think of it being a go-to herb for supporting the microcirculation, which also is important for cognitive function. Ginkgo is protective in part due to its antioxidant effects,[15] and supports circulation in the small vessels by reducing platelet activation and aggregation as well as stimulating the release of endothelium-derived relaxation factor.[16] Ginkgo has been shown to improve cognitive function,[17] memory,[18] and even balance, which is also something that can be an issue with Alzheimer’s disease.[19]

Ginkgo has been shown to improve cognitive function, memory, and even balance, which is also something that can be an issue with Alzheimer’s disease.

Lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) has a long history of traditional use for supporting the health of the nerves (including those in the brain). We now know it induces the secretion of nerve growth factor, a substance in the body that signals for the nerves to grow.[20] Lion’s mane has been shown to significantly increase cognitive function scores,[21] as well as reduce depression and anxiety.[22] It can also be of benefit in alleviating peripheral neuropathy (weakness, numbness, or pain in the hands and feet) which often can occur with age due to diabetes, vitamin B12 deficiency, or unknown causes.[23] Like many of the medicinal mushrooms, it may also protect against certain forms of cancer.[24],[25]

French maritime pine bark extract has been the topic of over 400 PubMed indexed studies. This extract from the French maritime pine has been shown to improve cognitive function, attention, mental performance, and working memory.[26],[27],[28] It also positively impacts blood pressure,[29] cholesterol balance,[30] and blood sugar, all of which may mitigate the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.[31],[32]

For many, a combination of nutritional supplements, diet and lifestyle choices, and directed botanical support can support healthy function of the brain today, tomorrow, and for years to come.

 

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Avoiding Alzheimer’s Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond – Part 1 of 2
Gut Microbiota Diversity in the Young and Old

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