Melatonin Supplementation Benefits Alzheimer’s Disease Patients

Alzheimers and MelatoninA benefit in cognitive function and sleep for both men and women with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease, was seen in a double blind placebo controlled study using a sustained-  release melatonin.

Melatonin is a hormone released from a gland found in the brain called the pineal gland.  Melatonin regulates the body’s circadian rhythm and helps initiate sleep.  Sleep plays an essential role in memory consolidation.

73 patients who were receiving drug therapy for Alzheimer’s disease participated in this study.  The participants received a prolonged release melatonin or a placebo every night for 24 weeks.

Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index assessments, Mini-Mental State Examination, Instrumental Activities of Daily Living and Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale Cognition tests were given before the study, 12 weeks into the study and at the end of the study.  In addition a sleep diary which kept tract of awakenings midsleep was completed.

After the 24 weeks, participants who had received the melatonin showed significant cognitive performance in comparison to participants who received the placebo.  Also the melatonin group had improved sleep efficiency compared to prior to the study’s onset.  For 13 individuals who had insomnia at the start of the trial the melatonin improved all their test results significantly.

Researchers believe that improved sleep efficiency may lead to less risk of beta amyloid deposits increases in the ability of the body to clear beta amyloid from the brain.  Ultimately this slows Alzheimer’s disease progression.

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NIH Study Links Lack of Sleep and Alzheimer’s Risk

Sleeplessness and Alzheimer's DiseaseAccording to a new small study, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found experiencing even one night of sleeplessness may lead to an immediate increase in beta-amyloid, a protein found in the brain and associated with Alzheimer’s disease.  Beta-amyloid proteins clump to together to form amyloid plaques in people with this Alzheimer’s disease.  While this is the first study to show how sleep may be an important factor in clearing beta-amyloid in the human brain, prior studies in mice have shown acute sleep deprivation to be a known cause of elevated beta-amyloid levels.

20 healthy individuals between the ages of 22 and 72 participated in this study. Researchers used PET (positron emission tomography) scans to understand the suspected link between beta-amyloid accumulation and sleep.  PET scans were performed after a night of restful sleep and after a night where the participants remained awake for approximately 31 hours.

Researchers found an increase in beta-amyloid of approximately 5% in various brain regions (thalamus and hippocampus) after the sleep deprivation.  These areas of the brain are especially vulnerable to damage during the early stages of Alzheimer’s.  Researchers did not follow up to see if the increases in beta-amyloid seen in this study subsided after a night of rest.  Additionally researchers found study participants whom experienced larger increases in beta-amyloid reported worse moods after the sleep deprivation.

It is estimated that beta-amyloid increases approximately 43% in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease when compared to healthy older adults.

Further studies are needed with a larger study population and to explore if the link between sleep disorders and Alzheimer’s risks are bidirectional, do increases in beta-amyloid cluster lead to sleep disturbances.

Supplements that may help a person get into a deeper more restful sleep include Melatonin, GABA, Magnesium, Valerian Root Extract, Passion Flower Extract, Hops, Scullcap, 5-HTP, L-Theanine, Collagen Protein and L-Tryptophan.

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The Health Benefits of Vitamin E

Vitamin EVitamin E, an antioxidant, is a fat-soluble nutrient and can only be obtained through food or through supplementation.  It is well known for its benefits for the skin, however it also beneficially for the heart and the brain.  A deficiency of Vitamin E is usually caused by a genetic abnormality or a fat malabsorption disorder.

Health Benefits for the Skin:

People have long recognized that Vitamin E is good for their skin.               Vitamin E in addition to Vitamin C has been proven to provide anti-aging benefits by preventing oxidative damage caused by sunlight.  These two antioxidants are also able to protect the skin against UV irradiation as well as eliminate free radicals, known to break down the polyunsaturated fatty acid membranes that provide cellular protection for every cell.  These two antioxidants used in combination have been shown in studies to provide a synergistic benefit not seen by either antioxidant when taken by them self.  Additionally studies have shown people with vitiligo, a condition where the skin loses its pigmentation, who have taken Vitamin E supplements have improved re-pigmentation of the skin as well as a reduction in the worsening of the condition.  Reductions in inflammation and lesion growth have also been seen with Vitamin E supplementation.Brain

Health Benefits for the Heart:

Vitamin E aids in protecting cells from oxidative stress in addition to preventing LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol from oxidation.  A severe deficiency of Vitamin E can cause cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle.  Animal studies have shown beneficial effects of Vitamin E for atherosclerosis.  In a large study with almost 40,000 women participants over 45 years of age, cardiovascular death rates were reduced by 24% in participants supplementing with Vitamin E.  Women older than 65, experienced a 49% reduction in cardiovascular death rates and a 26% reduction in nonfatal heart attacks.

Health Benefits for Other Things:

New interest in Vitamin E and its ability to support brain health has prompted research.  Some studies have shown Vitamin E could provide protective effects against injuries occurring in brain cells caused by strokes, reducing the risk for neurodegenerative diseases.  It is believed that Vitamin E influences the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment as well.

Vitamin E also has been linked with benefits for individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFL).  Studies have found supplementation with Vitamin E improved biochemistry features and microscopic tissue structures of patients with NAFL.

Increased Vitamin E supplementation during pregnancy may be needed to meet the increased needs of the body and to prevent gestational complications including several brain conditions.

In a study of over 29,000 male smokers who supplemented with Vitamin E for 5 – 8 years, a 32% reduction in prostate cancer incidence was seen when compared to the placebo group.

Over 90% of adults in the United States do not meet the average daily requirement of Vitamin E (around 15 mg) according to the Linus Pauling Institute.  Older individuals needing to improve their immunity should take higher dosages.

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Study Finds Probiotics May Improve Cognition in Alzheimer’s Patients

Probiotics and Cognition in Alzheimer'sAccording to a new study, probiotics may improve cognitive function in humans.  This is the first time research has shown supplementation of probiotics, friendly bacteria, may aid individuals with Alzheimer’s.

52 women and men between the ages of 60 and 95 with Alzheimer’s Disease participated in this randomized, double blind, controlled clinical trial.  The study lasted twelve weeks.  Half the patients were given milk enhanced with four strains of friendly bacteria (Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. casei, L. fermentum and Bifidobacterium Bifidum) the other half of the participants received only milk.  Blood samples for biochemical analysis were taken at the beginning and at the end of the study period.  Additionally cognitive function tests with MMSE (Mini-Mental State Examination, a standard measure of cognitive impairment) questions were also given; this includes tasks like repeating a phrase, copying a picture, counting backwards from 100 by sevens and giving the current date.

Significant increases (from 8.7 to 10.6 out of a maximum of 30) on the average score on the MMSE questionnaire were seen over the 12 week study period in the group receiving the probiotics.  The control group did not see the same results (from 8.5 to 8.0 out of a maximum of 30).  The participants remained severely cognitively impaired even after the study ended, however the researchers believe the results seen in this study are important because they are the first to show probiotics can improve human cognition.  Prior studies showed probiotics could improve memory as well as impaired spatial learning in diabetic rats.

Probiotics are known for their benefits of provinding protection against irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, periodontal disease, eczema, allergies, tooth decay and infectious diarrheas.  Scientists have believed for a long time that probiotics might improve cognition due to the continuous communication between the brain through the nervous system, immune system and hormones and between the intestinal microflora and the gastrointestinal tract (“microbiota-gut-brain axis”).

Further research is needed to determine if the benefits of probiotics grow stronger over a longer period of time.

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Magnesium Status and Dementia: Is There a Link ?

Magnesium and DementiaA new study published in Neurology, shows people with either low or high blood levels of Magnesium may have a higher risk of developing dementia.

Approximately 9,500 individuals participated in this prospective study.  Participants with an average age of 65 who did not have dementia were followed for an average of 8 years.  Serum Magnesium levels were measured at the start of the study.  Results were adjusted for variables like alcohol intake, body mass index, smoking status and kidney function, which may affect dementia risks and Magnesium levels.  Participants were divided into quintiles based on their serum Magnesium levels.

During this follow up period, over 800 individuals developed dementia.  Over 650 of these individuals were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. The incidence of dementia was found to be 30% higher in both the lowest blood Magnesium groups and the highest blood Magnesium groups.  Since this was an observational study only, no causality could be determined from the study outcomes.

There was however a few limitations on the way the study was set up.  First, Magnesium levels were only taken at the onset of the study, so changes in these blood levels may have occurred during the follow up period.  Second, blood levels of Magnesium may not be a reliable measure of total body Magnesium, meaning a person can have a normal serum Magnesium level and still have a Magnesium deficiency.  These limitations confirm that further research is needed.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) lists Magnesium as being involved in over 300 enzymatic processes in the body, such as helping to maintain normal nerve and muscle functions, keeping our bones strong as well as supporting a healthier immune response.  This important mineral is also necessary for supporting healthy blood pressure and blood sugar management.  70% – 80% of the population in the United States is not achieving the recommended intakes of daily Magnesium.

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Lutein Levels Linked To A More Agile And “Youthful” Brain

Lutein and CognitionA new study finds a high intake of Lutein may slow down cognitive decline.

60 healthy adults between the ages of 25 and 45 participated in this study.  Carotenoid levels were assessed by measuring MPOD (Macular Pigment Optical Density), which is considered a trusted indicator of Lutein levels in the brain. Event related brain activity was used as a gauge of cognitive function and was recorded as the participants performed cognitive control testing.  Study results showed MPOD was related to both specific electrical brain activity and age during the decision making process, known as the P3 wave.  Younger adults showed a larger abundance of P3 than the older participants however, the older participants with higher MPOD levels displayed P3 measures equal to the younger participants.  Researchers concluded that Lutein appears to have a protective role in the brain since the study data indicated that participants with more Lutein were able to utilize more cognitive resources to finish their tasks.

Besides being beneficial to brain health, Lutein and Zeaxanthin have been shown to provide support for vision and vision diseases since Lutein appears to accumulate in both the brain and in the eyes.  The ability of Lutein in brain processing, memory, speed and processing is intriguing since Lutein cannot be manufactured on its own in the body.

Further study is warranted.

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Folic Acid and Dementia: Supplementation Benefits Elderly People with Mild Cognitive Decline

Folic Acid and Cognitive ImpairmentElderly people with mild cognitive impairment saw significant improvements in both cognitive performance and reduced inflammation when supplementing with 400 mcg of Folic Acid daily for a period of 12 months.

Over 150 seniors with mild cognitive impairment were randomly assigned to two groups.  One group received daily Folic Acid supplementation (400 mcg) and the other group was a conventional-treatment group.

Significant improvements in cognitive function were seen in the group supplementing with Folic Acid.  Additionally a significant reduction in levels of inflammatory cytokines was seen.  Peripheral inflammatory cytokines appear to be biomarkers for identifying individuals who may be at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Researchers believe looking at the role of inflammatory markers at the onset of dementia, before full clinical dementia syndrome has developed, is essential.  Researchers concluded that folic acid has significant memory enhancing and anti-inflammatory properties.

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