Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Alzheimer's and Folate
Many people I know say they have occasional "senior moments." They may forget a name or spend several minutes searching for their eyeglasses, which are, in fact, precariously perched on top of their head. They often cautiously joke that they are developing Alzheimer's disease. Truth is, it can be hard to distinguish sometimes but here is a little pearl: some forgetfulness is part of normal aging. If you are forgetting things that you didn't spend a lot of attention trying to remember, such as where you left your checkbook or keys, you probably have less to worry about. On the other hand, if you are forgetting the directions to your home or how to balance a checkbook, there should be more concern.

The number of Alzheimer's cases is getting ready to explode. Over the next few decades, we will most likely see a quadrupling of Alzheimer's cases! So, no surprise then that researchers are scrambling to figure out a way to prevent the disease. There will be billions of dollars spent trying to figure out treatments, but an article today caught my eye. It involves something already found in most medical cabinets and refrigerators. It is folic acid or folate. Researchers at Columbia University followed nearly 1,000 participants with an average age of 75 for six years. They found that those with the lowest levels of folate in their diet had the highest risk of Alzheimer's disease. They also found that those who had adequate amounts (200 micrograms a day) through diet and supplements had the lowest risk.

Certainly, there are plenty of good reasons already to take enough folate, and even extra amounts (to a total 400 micrograms) if you are pregnant. It can ward off heart disease, depression and protect your unborn baby. Now, there may be another reason as well. Incidentally, spinach, turnips, peas and beans have the highest levels. I am curious, though, about other methods you may be trying in hopes of keeping Alzheimer's at bay. It may be simpler than we think. Is there something you believe increases or decreases your risk?
I believe exercising your brain helps keep it alert, just like exercising your body helps keep it fit. My 85 yo MIL does crossword puzzles, plays bridge, and reads mysteries, and she's sharp as a tack!
I agree. I'm a speech pathologist working primarily with an aging, geriatric population, and have read multiple articles supporting the theory of mental exercise. Every day I get to witness the benefits of this practice and theory first hand with my patients.
I teach beanbag juggling at a local
senior center which I consider to be
an excellent brain exercize in addition to being an wonderful upper
body aerobic exercise. I am sur-
prised there is not more attention paid to its therapeutic aspects.
A lot of research has been done on Alzheimers disease and it looks like there are many treatments that might slow the progression of the disesae but as of yet nothing seems to be out on the horizon to fully reverse the damage caused by the neurofibrillary tangles. In fact , some studies point that an early sign of possible Alzheimers onset may be a loss in the ability to smell as the neurons transmitting smell sense can be the first ones to be highly sensitive. Scientists at the University of Pennsylvannia have looked into a a special protein Tau that is found in those patients who have lost their sense of smell. Tau is the protein that is abnormal in Alzheimers disease as well. I guess it will be some time thought before this will be a reliable diagnostic test, but in the meantime it may be a good idea to watch for the loss of smell. The key thing says the study authors that it may help catch Alzheimers early so that people could maybe slow the progression of the disease. Perhaps Dr. Gupta wull shed some more light on this interesting aspect of Alzheimers.
I am 37 and my primary physician said they believe it is a likely possibility that I have "pre-mature" onset of alzheimers.
Thank you for posting your interview on the Pipeline - other than on your "House Call" page today - do you have any other recent information on the subject, or is there anything else I might try to "prolong" or "slow down" the inevitable? I was started on Aricept just a month ago.
I try to eat healthy -- I am largely vegetarian and stay active, get plenty of exercise, stay socially connected and do crosswords, puzzles, read etc.. I worry only because I had a head injury when I was 20, it doesn't run in my family.
I feel that chemicals in our food and environment are the cause of Alzheimer's and other degenerative diseases. The number of cases increases as our nutritional status in this country decreases. Since the early 50's the quality of peoples diets have completely deteriorated. TV dinners and fast food, pesticides, artificial colors and sweeteners. It seems so obvious, yet why does there seem to be so much confusion?
I've been watching the behavior of my 68 yr. old husband for several years now, to see if anything accompanies his extreme forgetfulness. Finally I watched him one night unable to swat a moth, awareness of following it around the room escaped him completely. He has T2 Diabetes, but I could not blame it on low blood sugar that night. Now I am more aware that it could be slowly happening. He's a confirmed couch potato, and I can't get him to do much but watch TV and sleep. Connection?
I started learning the computer when I was 50 years old. I am now 67. I really feel that doing computer graphics, surfing the web and learning how to use complitcated computer programs has helped me to remain alert and keep my mind strong. I think you may have to excercise your brain too.
Thanks Barbara Del Duco
A lot on socail interaction on a daily basis, helps ward off Alzheimers. The three people I know who developed this disease were socially isolated. Those whose interact daily with other people in ways that stimulate thought and conversations eem to do much better. And, I don't mean the nursing home environment.
In the 70's a study suggested a link between Alzheimer's and aluminum. It recommended not cooking with unclad aluminum pans, esp tomato based sauces, because it leached into the food. I got rid of my aluminum pans(popular then for their even cooking) and stopped using aluminum containing deoderant. Is there still believed to be a connection?
PS I found the response regarding the loss of smell very interesting as my father (now deceased) lost his sense of smell in his 80's and developed Alzheimers sometime later. Thank you for that piece of the puzzle.
Wasn't something said about anything over 200 micrograms being detrimental for someone with prostate cancer or for prostate problems?
I'm with Mary re this - she states a belief in a connection between "Alzheimer's and aluminum". A neurologist recently told my husband & I that in fact there is a significant correlation between the two.

Why isn't our government funding independent studies of the questions being asked on this blog??? Why is the public being forced to play guessing games re our health???
"Over the next few decades, we will most likely see a quadrupling of Alzheimer's cases!" When I see statements like that I begin to ask "Why?" Why is this happening? Is there something in our diet, our food, chemicals maybe? I travel to other countries which by our standards have worse diet and health standards than ours, but do not have the same diseases. Very alarming... What are we doing wrong?
The loss of smell concept has given me the confirmational piece of the puzzle regarding a friend's likely development of the disease. She has been forgetting pieces of information I told her two to three minutes ago (and so repeats her previous question or one similar to it)and cannot smell even the strongest (aromatic)cooking smells emanating from our neighbor's kitchen which wafts delightfully through the whole apartment building. As a language teacher, I believe the very best way to exercise the brain is to learn a foreign language. The process requires us to force our brains to remember details... something most of us never bother to do much. The link between aluminium pots is also frightening since these types of cooking implements were very popular and widely available years ago... the accumulative effect might be an issue worth studying more even though most of us have thrown these pots away years ago... is it too late for some of us who studying foreign languages? I think everybody who can afford it should have a series (8-12) of colonic irrigations once a year to flush out of our colons all the toxins that are accumulating through our poor diets (pesticides, artificial colours and flavours, putrifying protein etc... these are sitting in our colons slowly poisoning us!)
Why don't you ever mention celery, the most anti-acid product in our food chain? It can reduce stomach acidity immediately thereby reducing the possibility of damage to the esophagus..no need for Nexium????
This forum reminds me somewhat of my mother's response to have a psyciatric exam at the hospital...she was outraged that a doctor would be asking her what she thought was wrong with her, and that she'd be charged for it! Of course you are not charging us, but I do wonder in return what you will establish from these replies. We don't have one simple answer to the cause of that dreadful disease and never will. I do appreciate your sharing with us the comments on the loss of one's sense of smell being linked with onset of the disease. Thank you. More of expert advice, knowledge would be great. For example, the aluminum theory has been largely disproven, has it not? From this forum one might think it hasn't.
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