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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Lutein: For the Brain? Adults and Children May Benefit

Lutein and Brain for Adults and KidsLutein, a carotenoid, is usually associated with its benefits for ocular support.  This carotenoid is commonly found in both vegetables and fruits.  Research supports the role Lutein plays in the retina and its ability to decrease the risk of age related eye diseases.  Currently, Lutein is beginning to be recognized as support for the brain.

Lutein is taken up into brain tissue on a selective basis and is the main carotenoid in adult and infant brains.  Increased levels of Lutein correlate with improve cognitive function in older individuals.  Interestingly enough Lutein concentrations in the macula of the retina correspond with the levels of Lutein found in the brain tissue, and provides a non invasive means to measure Lutein in the brain.  This reinforces research showing increased macular pigment density in adults being significantly associated with improvements in cognitive performance.

Lutein also plays a role on cognition in early life.  Lutein is the preferred carotenoid taken up in cord blood and in breast milk.  Young brains show the ratio of Lutein to total carotenoids to be twice those found in adults which accounts for over half the concentration of total carotenoids.

The increased proportion of Lutein found in young brains suggests Lutein is needed during neural development.  Recent studies in children 8 – 10 years of age, shows macular pigment density was significantly related to academic performance and better memory.

Lutein’s role as an antioxidant and a natural anti-inflammatory may be why Lutein is so important.  In a randomized double blind placebo controlled study in healthy newborns supplementing Lutein significantly increased serum antioxidant activity providing a benefit when in brain tissue.

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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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Choline,-An Underused, Essential Nutrient

CholineCholine is an essential vitamin-like nutrient that is useful for helping the body to maintain optimal health.  Only recently has this vital nutrient gained attention for its role in supporting healthy liver function, prenatal development, brain and heart health and athletic performance and recovery.  As a matter of fact Choline is the most recent nutrient to receive an RDI (reference daily intake) from the FDA.  Choline was classified as an essential nutrient in 1998 by the Institute of Medicine.  This important nutrient is not as readily available through our foods as originally thought and approximately 90% of all Americans are not meeting IOM’s (Institue of Medicine) recommended daily intakes of 425 mg for adult women and 550 mg for adult men.

Choline helps cleanse the liver of fats that can accumulate in this organ.  This in turn helps maintain normal liver function.  This is important since today almost 40% of the population now has NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease).  Growing obesity levels is a key factor in the rise of this disease.  Without adequate levels of Choline fat transport out of the liver slows down and fat accumulates in the liver causing damage.  In healthy adults deprived of Choline for 42 days between 77% and 80% developed signs of liver dysfunction according to one study.  This damage did reverse itself once the participants were given a high-choline diet.

Choline, an essential building block of cells, is needed in larger quantities during pregnancy.  Pregnant women use twice the recommended levels of Choline, however only about 10% of pregnant women meet these higher levels.  Growing evidence link Choline, like folic acid, to the prevention of neural tube defects in newborns.  One study found a 2.4-fold higher risk of neural tube defects in participants with low blood levels of Choline during mid-pregnancy.  Additionally, Choline seems to lower cortisol levels and may reduce the baby’s response to stress.  It looks like Choline makes Omega-3 DHA more available to the prenatal brain supporting healthier cognitive development.  Pre-Eclampsia risks (onset of high blood pressure during pregnancy) have been reduced during the third trimester of pregnancy with Choline supplementation.

Choline has shown benefits for lowering homocysteine levels.  Homocysteine is an inflammatory marker associated with greater risks for heart disease, stroke, cancer, bone fractures and cognitive decline.  Choline converts homocysteine into the amino acid methionine thereby preventing the building up of homocysteine in the body.

Choline supports faster communication between muscle fibers and the brain which helps support additional muscle recovery after repetitive motion exercise which boosts overall workout performance.  Choline also helps in the optimization and synthesis of nitric oxide.  Nitric Oxide increases the flow of nutrients and oxygen into the muscles increases pump during exercise.  Active people are a greater risk of Choline depletion ultimately causing a reduction in performance and the breakdown of muscle cells to support adequate Choline supplies to the brain.

Food sources of Choline are not typically a part of most American diets.  Egg yolks and Beef liver are examples of Choline-rich foods.  Salmon, broccoli, peanuts, brussel sprouts and chicken also contain Choline but in smaller amounts and do not provide the amount of Choline needed in a day making supplementation a must.

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Vitamins May Have Larger Role in Halting Brain Decline

Vitamin B is for BrainA new review claims folate and related B Vitamins play a role in slowing down brain function decline as well as playing a role in age-related depression.  These findings look at certain B Vitamins as being equally as successful in supporting the reduction in the risk of mental and cognitive disorders which occur with aging, as nutrients like Omega-3 Essential Fatty acids as well as polyphenols like Resveratrol.  Researchers believe these B Vitamins have the ability to improve the quality of life for the elderly.

Researchers concluded that folate and Vitamin B12 play essential roles in the long term management of dementia and age-related depression.  Inconsistencies of vitamin experiments coming from uncertain study design and methodology were identified by the research team.  B Vitamins and their role in supporting a healthier cognitive function in the aging process received more interest than B Vitamins and their role in age-related depression.

Over 46 million people worldwide experience some form of dementia and it is believed that this number will increase by over 65% by the year 2026.  Although the role of nutrients in supporting brain health is often underestimated nutrients are never fully discounted as being an effective means to aid in improving cognition in ageing.

Researchers are recommending that future studies use some form of imaging technology to confirm effective nutritional interventions.

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Prenatal Folic Acid Could Benefit Children’s Psychological Development

Prenatal Folic AcidA new study finds that supplementation with Folic Acid has beneficial effects on the psychological development of children if taken during the first trimester and beyond.

39 women participated in this randomized controlled trial.  22 of the participating mothers supplemented with folic acid throughout their pregnancy while the remaining 17 only supplemented with folic acid for the first three months of their pregnancy.  At age 7 the 39 children were monitored by asking the parents to answer a questionnaire.  This questionnaire asked questions about the children’s personalities, relationship with others, levels of resilience and abilities to express emotion.  The study results showed that the children of the mothers who supplemented with the Folic Acid throughout their full pregnancy had a higher level of emotional resilience and intelligence.

Folic Acid supplementation during the first trimester of pregnancy has been shown, and is well established, as being important to a baby’s spinal development.  Researchers concluded this study shows the potential psychological benefits achieved through Folic Acid supplementation throughout a women’s full pregnancy.

Further research is planned.

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Lutein and Zeaxanthin Levels Linked to Better Cognitive Function

Lutein and Cognitive FunctionA new study has found that higher blood levels of Lutein and Zeaxanthin may be associated with improved memory, cognition and executive function.  Data from this study found higher Zeaxanthin levels were associated with increased processing speeds and higher levels of both Zeaxanthin and Lutein were associated with enriched scores for many cognitive measures.

Data from over 4,000 adults aged 50 and older was analyzed.  Researchers inferred that a good biological basis exists for hypothesizing that Lutein and Zeaxanthin may be neuroprotective due to their anti inflammatory cell signaling properties and due to their antioxidant properties.

A link between eye health and Lutein was established in 1994 when researchers found a link between the consumption of dark leafy vegetables (carotenoid rich foods) and a reduction in the incidence of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  Additional studies now support the effects Lutein has on brain health.  Studies show that the carotenoids found in pediatric brain tissue is 60% Lutein yet only about 12% of the carotenoids found in the average diet contains Lutein.  Researchers have concluded that the brain has a preference for Lutein.

More studies are definitely needed.

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