(Natural News) Over 5.5 million Americans – mostly over the age of 65 – are battling Alzheimer’s disease, a debilitating condition that kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Alzheimer’s progressively destroys memory and other cognitive functions, causing confusion, anxiety and heartache. The number of people fighting this disease has increased by a staggering 89 percent since 2000.
Now, an exciting new study by researchers from the University of Bonn, Germany, claims to have uncovered the cause of this incurable disease, and the team hopes that their discovery will lead to a breakthrough in treatment within the next decade.
Scientists have understood for some time that Alzheimer’s is associated with a build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain. Amyloid plaques are a sticky build-up which accumulates on the outside of neurons, or nerve cells. While amyloid is a protein that naturally occurs throughout the body, in Alzheimer’s patients this protein divides improperly, creating a form of amyloid which is toxic to neurons in the brain.
Most human trials for Alzheimer’s treatments have focused on trying to target these plaques. All have failed.
The new research is exciting in that it has revealed the root cause of this amyloid plaque build-up: Inflammation in immune cells called microglia, which make up between 10 and 15 percent of all brain cells, and which act as the brain’s first line of immune defense.
Inflammation directly fuels the characteristic amyloid plaque build-up which autopsies have revealed in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
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The Daily Mail recently reported:
For years inflammation has been suspected of having a role but the exact nature of its involvement has been hard to pin down – until now.
The researchers found the microglia release specks of a protein called ASC in response to it. They stick to the amyloid beta protein – boosting its production. …
ASC reside in a vital inflammatory pathway called the NLRP3 inflammasome which damages brain cells.
The researchers found that this process takes place right from the earliest stages of the disease, and that when an antibody was used in laboratory tests to prevent ASC from binding to the amyloid protein, the damaging, sticky amyloid plaque build-up was prevented.
The research team is excited about the possibility of developing a chemical treatment which can directly target inflammasomes, and hope that an Alzheimer’s “cure” might be on the horizon within the next five to 10 years.
Of course, any such chemical cure is likely to carry a slew of side effects, and will more than likely be very costly.
On the other hand, the knowledge that inflammation is the root cause of Alzheimer’s is very powerful, because inflammation can be avoided and even reversed. (Related: Six healthy habits effective for preventing Alzheimer’s disease.)
An article published by Harvard Medical School, for example, noted:
Doctors are learning that one of the best ways to quell inflammation lies not in the medicine cabinet, but in the refrigerator.
The article noted that while inflammation serves the purpose of protecting your body against threatening invaders, inflammation can sometimes persist for long periods of time, even when no such threat exists. It added:
That’s when inflammation can become your enemy. Many major diseases that plague us—including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s—have been linked to chronic inflammation.
One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store.
The foods we eat we will either cause or prevent inflammation; it’s as simple as that.
Foods that cause inflammation include refined carbohydrates, fries and other junk food, soda, processed meats, margarine, and conventionally farmed meat that has been subjected to routine antibiotic and hormone treatments.
On the other side of the spectrum, foods that actively fight inflammation include most of the foods that form part of the Mediterranean diet, including tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy veggies, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, and fresh, organic fruit.
Discover the latest information and breakthroughs at Alzheimers.news.
Sources for this article include: