Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia
Some causative factors
- Aluminium toxicity
- B vitamin deficiency
- Poor cerebral circulation.
Recent studies have investigated the possibility that supplementation with choline or lecithin may be beneficial in Alzheimer’s and other psychiatric diseases where there may be a deficiency of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, since these nutrients are precursors to acetylcholine. Rosenberg GS et al: The use of cholinergic precursors in neuropsychiatric diseases. Am J Clin Nutr 36(4):709-20, 1982.
Compared with controls, 17 Alzheimer’s disease patients had significantly lower plasma vitamin B1 levels. The authors conclude that currently used testing methods may be inadequate for such patients and point out that vitamin B1 deficiency can in itself impair cognitive function (rational thought processes). Gold M et al: Plasma and red blood cell thiamine deficiency in patients with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. Arch Neurol 52(11):1081-6, 1995.
Vitamin B1-dependent enzymes were found to be very low in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, indicating a vitamin B1 deficiency. Gibson GE et al: Reduced activities of thiamine-dependent enzymes in the brains and peripheral tissues of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Arch Neurol 45(8):836-40, 1988.
The neurological status of 11 patients with low vitamin B12 levels but without definite haematological signs of deficiency was examined. The patients displayed a variety of neurological problems, including depression, dementia, neuropathy and seizure disorder. Testing procedures and a trial of B12 therapy led to the conclusion that electrophysiological evidence of neurological impairment is often present even in patients without obvious clinical neurological abnormalities. Karnaze DS et al: Neurologic and evoked potential abnormalities in subtle cobalamin deficiency states, including deficiency without anemia and with normal absorption of free cobalamin. Arch Neurol 47(9):1008-12, 1990.
Scores for mental performance were compared with levels of homocysteine (a marker of vitamin B12 deficiency) and serum levels of vitamins B6, B12 and folate, in 70 men aged 54-81. Lower levels of B12 and folate and higher levels of homocysteine were associated with poorer mental performance. Higher concentrations of vitamin B6 were related to better memory performance. Riggs KM et al: Relations of vitamin B-12, vitamin B-6, folate, and homocysteine to cognitive performance in the Normative Aging Study. Am J Clin Nutr 63(3):306-14, 1996.
Promising nutritional research
The effects of gingko biloba extract on mental performance were assessed in 72 outpatients with cerebral insufficiency. After 24 weeks there was a significant improvement in short-term memory and learning rate. Grassel E: Einfluss von Gingko-biloba-Extrakt auf die geistige computerisierten Messbedingungen bei Patienten mit Zerebralinsuffizienz. Fortschr Med 110(5):73-6, 1992.
216 patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia due to small blood clots were given either Ginkgo biloba extract or placebo. After 24 weeks there was a significant improvement in the Ginkgo biloba group compared with controls. Kanowski S et al: Proof of efficacy of the ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in outpatients suffering from mild to moderate primary degenerative dementia of the Alzheimer type or multi-infarct dementia. Pharmacopsychiatry 29(2):47-56, 1996.
In an analysis of 40 clinical trials using Ginkgo biloba against cerebral insufficiency, it was found that Ginkgo was an effective agent, as effective as the pharmaceutical agent co-dergocrine, used for the same indication. Kleijnen J et al: Ginkgo biloba for cerebral insufficiency. Br J Clin Pharmacol 34(4):352-8, 1992.
Vitamin B12 levels were found to be significantly lower in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with Alzheimer’s disease compared with blood clot-related dementia. Ikeda T et al: Vitamin B12 levels in serum and cerebrospinal fluid of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Acta Psychiatr Scand 82(4):327-9, 1990.
Patients with cerebral circulatory disease leading to intellectual deterioration, confusion and impaired memory and concentration experienced a significant improvement after treatment with 3-4 grams a day of the amino acid taurine by mouth for several weeks. Montanini R et al: Taurine in the management of diffuse cerebral arteriopathy. Clinical and electroencephalographic observations, and mental test results. Clin Ter 71(5):427-36, 1974.
Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator