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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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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Omega-3 Could Aid Alzheimer’s Prevention

Omega-3 and Alzheimer's DiseaseNew research finds individuals with high Omega-3 intakes have an increase in blood flow in the brain suggesting a link might exist between Omega-3 and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Over 160 randomly selected people participated in this trial.  These participants were taken from clinics and their brain function was studied using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT).  SPECT measures blood perfusion in the brain.  128 regions of the brain were used to collect data on the correlation between Omega-3 blood levels as well as blood flow in the brain.  Resting-state scans were performed while participants were sitting in a dimly lit room with ambient noise and with their eyes open.  For on-task scans participants completed Continuous Performance Tests (CPTs) while the scans were performed.

Significant statistical relationships were found between EPA and DHA (Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids)  levels in the blood and cerebral perfusion in various regions of the brain: areas known for memory encoding and retrieval (parahippocampal gyrus), areas for episodic memory, visuospatial processing, and aspects of consciousness (the right preuneus), and areas associated with bodily locomotion and posture (vermis subregion).

Researchers concluded that Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA) may improve brain physiology which in turn leads to better cognitive reserves.

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Vitamin A Status At Birth Linked to Long-Term Risk of Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s

Cognitive FunctionA new study has found elderly individuals with low Vitamin A levels may be more at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease along with lower brain functioning.  Additionally the study found the even a marginal Vitamin A deficiency at birth might affect long-term risk factors.

This new study was made up of findings from mouse models as well as human population data.  The population study revealed that 75% of those with either a significant or even mild Vitamin A deficiency had some cognitive impairment compared to 47% with normal Vitamin A levels that experienced cognitive impairment.  The research on mice confirmed this finding.  Even a mild Vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy or immediately after birth was associated with an increase in the production of amyloid-beta plaques which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.  Researchers found that mice deprived of Vitamin A performed poorly on standardized tests of memory as well as learning as adults.  Mice that had Vitamin A withheld while they were in the womb but were given a normal diet after they were born had lower performance in general when compared to mice receiving adequate Vitamin A in the womb but were deprived Vitamin A after birth.  It was found that some reversal of decline could be reversed with adequate Vitamin A supplementation.  Researchers concluded that monitoring Vitamin A during infancy as well as during pregnancy and eliminating a prenatal Vitamin A deficiency may aid in halting Alzheimer’s disease development.

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Probiotics Improve Cognitive Function Among Patients With Severe Dementia

Probiotics and Brain Function

A new clinical trial with Alzheimer’s patients shows that probiotics may improve cognitive function in humans.  Prior studies showing probiotics benefits for improvements in memory and learning as well as anxiety and depression reduction have been done with mice.

60 patients with Alzheimer’s disease participated in this double blind, controlled trial.  Patients ranged in age from 60 to 95 years.  The study lasted 12 weeks.  Patients were randomly divided into 2 groups.  The control group received milk and the other group received a 200 ml/day mixture of probiotic milk containing Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium biffidum and Lactobacillus fermentum.  A small mental state exam (MMSE) score was recorded both before and after treatment for all participants.  Additionally fasting blood samples were taken to determine related markers both before and after the study period.

Average scores on the MMSE questionnaires increased significantly from 8.7 to 10.6 (out of a maximum of 30) in the group receiving the probiotic and decreased in the control group from 8.7 to 8.0.  The probiotic group also showed reduction in triglycerides and insulin resistance indicating that a “change in the metabolic adjustments might be a mechanism by which probiotics affect Alzheimer’s and possibly other neurological disorders” according to the study’s lead author.

Further studies are already planned.

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