Acetylcarnitine and Alzheimer’s Disease

The Journal of Neuroscience Research featured an article in 2006 on acetylcarnitine and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)
that outlined the possible mechanism of this supplement in counteracting the effect of AD. Essentially, acetylcarnitine antioxidant workings may be able to prevent, or helpt to prevent, the deformations of brain structure associated with the development of Alzheimer’s. The authors of this NIH-funded research conclude that acetylcarnitine “may be useful as a possible therapeutic strategy for patients with AD.”

For more on this supplement, including its applications for neuropathy, see the NYBC entry Acetylcarnitine.


Gingko Biloba used for dementia and for Alzheimer’s Disease

The University of Maryland Medical Center’s Complementary Medicine website, reviews recent studies of gingko biloba for dementia, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s disease. Here is an excerpt:

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Ginkgo is widely used in Europe for treating dementia. It use is primarily due to its ability to improve blood flow to the brain and because of its antioxidant properties. The evidence that ginkgo may improve thinking, learning, and memory in people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has been highly promising.

Clinical studies suggest that ginkgo may provide the following benefits for people with AD:

Improvement in thinking, learning, and memory (cognitive function)
Improvement in activities of daily living
Improvement in social behavior
Fewer feelings of depression

Several studies have found that ginkgo may be as effective as leading AD medications in delaying the symptoms of dementia in people with this debilitating condition. In addition, ginkgo is sometimes used preventively because it may delay the onset of AD in someone who is at risk for this type of dementia (for example, family history).

Citation (one of several recent studies cited by UMMC): Mazza M, Capuano A, Bria P, Mazza S. Ginkgo biloba and donepezil [Aricept]: a comparison in the treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia in a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study. Eur J Neurol . 2006;13(9):981-5.

See also the NYBC entry on Gingko Biloba for additional information on use of this botanical for cognitive function.

New findings on fish oil’s mechanism against Alzheimer’s

Here’s a Jan. 2, 2008 post on the website reporting on new findings on the mechsnism of action of fish oil as a deterrent to Alzheimer’s Disease.


Greg Cole, professor of medicine and neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and associate director of UCLA’s Alzheimer Disease Research Center, and his colleagues report that the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in fish oil increases the production of LR11, a protein that is found at reduced levels in Alzheimer’s patients and which is known to destroy the protein that forms the “plaques” associated with the disease.

The plaques are deposits of a protein called beta amyloid that is thought to be toxic to neurons in the brain, leading to Alzheimer’s. Since having high levels of LR11 prevents the toxic plaques from being made, low levels in patients are believed to be a factor in causing the disease.

The researchers examined the effects of fish oil, or its component DHA, in multiple biological systems and administered the oil or fatty acid by diet and by adding it directly to neurons grown in the laboratory.

“We found that even low doses of DHA increased the levels of LR11 in rat neurons, while dietary DHA increased LR11 in brains of rats or older mice that had been genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s disease,” said Cole, who is also associate director of the Geriatric Research Center at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

To show that the benefits of DHA were not limited to nonhuman animal cells, the researchers also confirmed a direct impact of DHA on human neuronal cells in culture as well. Thus, high levels of DHA leading to abundant LR11 seem to protect against Alzheimer’s, Cole said, while low LR11 levels lead to formation of the amyloid plaques.

 Quite an interesting supplement, fish oil. The first focus on its health benefits was directed at heart health and cardiovascular concerns. However, more recently there has been a lot of investigative energy devoted to the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on cognitive function and mood.

See, for example, the posts on “Depression” on this blog, which detail some of the recent findings about fish oil’s potential for addressing mood.

The New York Buyers’ Club stocks

DHA Max (Jarrow). See description here.

Folate, the feds, and you

Folate, a B vitamin, frequently appears in news about dietary supplement research. (Note: folic acid is the form found in supplements or fortified foods.)

For example, an article earlier this year offered this announcement: “Higher Folate Levels Linked To Reduced Risk For Alzheimer’s Disease. ” (JAMA and Archives Journals: 2007, January 9)

And you wouldn’t have to look too far to discover current research on folate deficiency associated with the potential for cardiovascular problems, or folate deficiency linked to higher rates of breast, pancreatic, or colon cancer.  

Of course, when folate was first identified and studied 70 years ago, the chief draw for researchers was its role in combating anemia and supporting the health of women during pregnancy. But since then, as understanding of the vitamin has grown, it’s come under scrutiny for many other reasons.

Indeed in 1996, the US federal government decided that the health benefits of folic acid were very clear–and yet too many Americans were not getting enough from their diets. The response? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published regulations requiring the addition of folic acid to enriched breads, cereals, flours, corn meals, pastas, rice, and other grain products–where you’ll find it today (check nutritional labels).

For more information on whether you’re getting enough folate in your diet, and who should consider supplementing, see the Office of Dietary Supplement fact sheet on FOLATE:

Gingko biloba and omega-3 fatty acids for cognitive health

In its annual bibliography of significant advances in dietary supplement research for 2006, the National Institutes of Health focused on two studies in the category of “cognitive health.” One, involving gingko biloba, found that a component of this botanical may have therapeutic potential for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. This research on gingko provides further background information for of two large randomized controlled investigations that are now underway: the Gingko Evaluation of Memory study, and the GuidAge study.

A second study in the “cognitive health” category was a clinical trial that followed patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease who took omega-3 fatty acid supplements, as compared to those taking placebo. A significant reduction in cognitive decline was found in those with very moderate dysfunction who took the omega-3.

This investigation also was undertaken in support of a wider investigation on Alzheimer’s and omega-3s, which is being funded by the National Institutes of Health.