Coconut oil, curcumin, DHA and B vitamins have all been shown to help protect against the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. We take a look at the evidence.
According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, there are currently an estimated 44.4 million people with dementia worldwide. This number is expected to increase to around 75.6 million in 2030, and 135.5 million in 2050, with much of the increase being in developing countries. While these statistics are worrying, recent research has shed light on a number of natural supplements that may help this devastating degenerative condition.
A 2004 clinical trial, published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, reported significant improvements in Alzheimer’s disease patients after 45 and 90 days of treatment with Medium Chain Triglycerides from coconut oil.
MCTs are the primary source of fat found within coconut oil, and they are also a primary source of ketone bodies, which provide an alternative energy source for the brain. The brain’s usual energy source is glucose, but when insulin resistance develops in the brain, which is what happens to people with Alzheimer’s disease, parts of the brain start to shrink, leading to impaired functioning and eventual loss of memory, speech, movement and personality.
Ketone bodies, however, provide an alternative energy source which can prevent brain shrinkage and lead to improvements in cognitive function.
A recent pilot study investigated the effects of coconut oil supplementation on live rat neurons cultured in the lab and treated with ß-amyloid peptides.2 These peptides are the main component of the plaques found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and are believed to contribute to the disease. The results showed that the neurons damaged by the ß-amyloid peptides and treated with coconut oil appeared healthier, while the coconut oil seemed to prevent the damage caused to the mitochondria in these neurons. As the function of the mitochondria in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients is often compromised, this discovery is highly significant.
A number of clinical trials indicate that curcumin, the compound found in the spice turmeric, has a neuroprotective effect, and many relate directly to Alzheimer’s disease. For example, a study published in the journal Ayu reported that three patients with Alzheimer’s disease experienced “remarkable” improvements in behavioural symptoms after consuming 100mg of curcumin daily for 12 weeks. The researchers concluded that the supplementation with curcumin increased the quality of life and activities of daily living of the patients and eased the burden on their caregivers.
Curcumin is known to have anti- inflammatory properties which may play a protective role against the above- mentioned ß-amyloid peptides.4 Also, research shows that a combination of curcumin and vitamin D3 may help to stimulate the immune system to clear the brain of these ß-amyloid peptides.
DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is an omega-3 fatty acid that is needed for the maintenance of normal brain function. It is found in oily fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel.
Decreased levels of DHA in the brain are linked with cognitive decline during ageing and with the onset of sporadic Alzheimer’s disease.6 Research shows that DHA may be beneficial to those with Alzheimer’s disease because of its ability to limit the production of ß-amyloid which is involved in the progression of the disease. One particular study, carried out on mice, concluded that “dietary DHA could be protective against ß-amyloid production, accumulation, and potential downstream toxicity.”
B vitamins have been shown to help in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease by regulating the body’s levels of homocysteine. This amino acid is normally converted into the brain chemical acetylcholine, which is used for memory, but studies have showed that Alzheimer’s patients have unusually high levels of homocysteine in their bloodstream and low levels of acetylcholine. Additionally, high levels of homocysteine have been linked with brain shrinkage. One study demonstrated that “B vitamins lower homocysteine, which directly leads to a decrease in GM (grey matter) atrophy, thereby slowing cognitive decline.” The researchers added that “the beneficial effect of B vitamins is confined to participants with high homocysteine.”
BrainPower is a new formulation which uniquely combines DHA, curcumin and coconut oil. Simply mix a spoonful with a small amount of your food of choice and chew slowly – this is for maximum absorption into the mouth and brain.
This formulation contains vitamins B3, B6, B12, C, D, E and folic acid, plus selenium, biotin, magnesium, dimethylglycine, taurine, ribose, co-enzyme Q10, N-acetyl-D-glucosamine and pine bark extract.