Originally published January 17 2010
Nutrients stimulate brain connections, could treat Alzheimer's
by Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
(NaturalNews) The earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD) are marked by a major loss of the brain connections needed to process information and to retain memory. While there are drug therapies used to help delay progression of AD, those medications are loaded with side effects and, if they work at all, the effects only last for the short term. Eventually the disease continues to rob those with Alzheimer's of their memory, thinking ability and quality of life. But scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have recently discovered that a combination of naturally occurring nutrients could do what Big Pharma drugs can't. In research just published in the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia, the nutrient mix stimulated the growth of new brain connections, technically known as synapses -- and the supplements were shown to have potential to improve memory in Alzheimer's patients.
Richard Wurtman, the Cecil H.Green Distinguished Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, did the basic research that led to the new experimental treatment and was part of the research team that conducted the clinical trial. Wurtman believes loss of synapses is the root cause of Alzheimer's disease. In previous animal studies, Wurtman has found that specific nutrients boost the number of dendritic spines (small outcroppings of neural membranes) and, when those spines contact other neurons, the formation of new synapses takes place. "If you can increase the number of synapses by enhancing their production, you might to some extent avoid that loss of cognitive ability (in Alzheimer's)," he said in a statement to the media.
To test this idea, the research team conducted a clinical trial involving 225 Alzheimer's disease patients. The scientists used a cocktail of three nutrients (uridine, choline and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA) found in breast milk and certain foods plus other ingredients (B vitamins, phosopholipids and antioxidants). Uridine (a nutrient in beets and molasses), choline (found in egg yolks and wheat germ) and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (one of the two long-chain omega-3s in fish such as salmon) are known to be precursors to the fatty molecules that make up brain cell membranes which form synapses.
Patients with mild Alzheimer's drank the cocktail (in the form of a nutrient drink called Souvenaid, made with the collaboration of the French company Danone, known as Dannon in the U.S.) or a control beverage daily for about three months. The research subjects who received the nutrients showed a statistically significant level of improvement compared to those who received a placebo drink. In fact, 40 percent of the patients receiving the nutrient mix showed improved performance in a test of verbal memory (memory for words, as opposed to memory of locations or experiences) known as the Wechsler Memory Scale.
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About the authorSherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.
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