A new scientific review published in the Open Biology journal examines the role of antioxidants and a nutrient-rich diet in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Authored by researchers from the University of Western Australia, the paper describes how evidence is accumulating that, through taking advantage of their synergistic effects, combinations of antioxidants may be effective not only in preventing Alzheimer’s disease but also in reversing it. Advising combining antioxidant supplements with a nutrient-rich diet, the researchers say such an approach may also be effective against other neurodegenerative diseases.
World Health Organization statistics suggest that around 50 million people worldwide have dementia. Nearly 10 million new cases occur every year. Characterized by the existence of intracellular and extracellular amyloid deposits in the brain, Alzheimer’s is the most common form of the condition and is believed to contribute to between 60 and 70 percent of cases. By 2050 the total number of patients with dementia is projected to more than triple, reaching 152 million. With its total global societal cost already estimated to be $818 billion, the need to find effective means of preventing and treating dementia has never been more urgent.
Antioxidants examined in this Western University of Australia study include astaxanthin, which the researchers describe as “the most potent carotenoid antioxidant”, vitamin C, and vitamin E. A press release accompanying the publication of the study describes how the researchers found that taking a combination of antioxidants was more beneficial at preventing Alzheimer’s than any other treatment currently available. The researchers note that supplementation with vitamin C may be “particularly desirable” since the human body, unlike that of most animals, is not able to synthesize it.
The study makes particular reference to ascorbyl palmitate, the fat-soluble form of vitamin C. Noting that this form of vitamin C is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, the researchers point out that this makes it far more available to neural tissue than water-soluble forms of the vitamin. They say that because it resides in the cell membrane, ascorbyl palmitate can also regenerate vitamin E continuously.
In one double-blind clinical trial cited by the researchers, supplemental vitamin E taken in the form of alpha-tocopherol showed beneficial effects with respect to the rate of deterioration of cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients. The researchers suggest that combining different forms of vitamin E, such as all four of the tocopherols, may be more effective than using the alpha-tocopherol form alone.
Glutathione, a key antioxidant produced in the body, is also discussed. The researchers describe how higher levels of glutathione are associated with the best functional capacity in centenarians. They suggest taking supplements of the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine to increase levels of glutathione, adding that omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, vitamin E, alpha-lipoic acid, and selenium may also be used.
Looking at dietary interventions, the researchers say the idea that diet can affect mental ability and susceptibility to neurological disorders is not new. They describe how several thousand soldiers held as prisoners of war in Japanese camps during WWII were made prematurely senile by almost four years of malnutrition. Supplementation with large doses of vitamin B3 later restored the prisoners’ mental capacity. This, the researchers say, led to the conclusion that ‘senility’ is due to chronic malnutrition and that it is a vitamin-dependent condition which comes from many years of mild or moderate chronic vitamin deficiencies.
The issue of deficiencies of antioxidants and minerals in foods is also discussed. The researchers describe how centuries of agriculture using the same surface soil has drained soils of minerals in many countries. They explain that spraying pesticides and herbicides on soils destroys the microorganisms that are needed to release many minerals and maintain soil fertility. If essential minerals and trace elements are not replenished in soils, the resulting food crops can become severely deficient in them.
There are several reasons to be positive about the publication of this study. Its focus on the synergistic effects of combinations of antioxidants is particularly heartening, for example. Over the past two decades, pioneering studies conducted by researchers at the Dr. Rath Research Institute have proven that through taking advantage of the synergistic effects of nutrients their biological impact can be maximized.
Also worthy of note is the study’s recognition of the role played by chronic vitamin deficiencies in the development of senility. This reflects Dr. Rath’s Cellular Medicine concept, which explains how the primary cause of chronic diseases is a long-term deficiency of vitamins and other essential nutrients.
Similarly notable is the study’s acknowledgement of the desirability of supplementing with vitamin C, and the fact that the researchers point out that, unlike most other animals, humans are not able to make this vital nutrient in their bodies. Through his groundbreaking book, ‘Why Animals Don’t Get Heart Attacks…But People Do’, these have long been things that Dr. Rath has been spreading global awareness of.
Given the continued failure of pharmaceutical medicine to find an answer to Alzheimer’s disease, there is much here that should give hope to the families and doctors of patients afflicted with the condition. It is time for the wider scientific community to sit up and take notice.