What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a functional disturbance of the brain that gradually leads to memory loss and difficulties with thought processing.1 It is the most common cause of dementia but not the only cause. The early onset of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease tends to occur in the mid-60s.1 – 3
I had little knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease prior to writing this article. However, whilst researching into this disease, I believed that it is those who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and their carers that could really explain what Alzheimer’s disease is. To gain some understanding, I joined the Dementia Friends Initiative and watched awareness movies such as Still Alice which is also available as a book.
Continual research is being channelled towards the development of medicinal treatment for enhancing long-term memory.4 These research programmes have produced some small molecules specifically for memory-enhancement. However, some of them have dose-limiting side effects which have severely restricted their therapeutic use.5
A healthy diet might help
Reports have known that a healthy balanced diet can reduce the risk of developing dementia, along with maintaining a healthy lifestyle.2,3 Additionally, some studies suggests that individuals with dementia often have low levels of vitamins C and E.6 Vitamins C and E have been suggested to have protective activities on the brain from the effects of ageing. An observational research study linked high dietary intake of vitamins C and E to a 20-25% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.6 Although, it is unclear whether the benefit is from a healthy diet or the vitamins alone. In addition, the vitamin supplements did not appear to offer the same protection.6
A healthy diet might be beneficial, as the combined effect of many nutrients outweighs the effect of a single nutrient.7 This idea is exemplified by Souvenaid, a medical nutrition formulation. Souvenaid is a drink that contains the combination of vitamins and nutrients for the dietary management of early Alzheimer’s disease. The drink contains high doses of Vitamin C, E, B and B13, uridine, choline and omega 3 fatty acids.7
Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish. This is rather interesting because as a child, I rarely ate fish and I still don’t eat it that often, however, I have just started adding tuna to my menu. During my childhood, I only ate fish as I believed that it will boost my intellect, so the night before a school test I would be hoping for fish at dinner. Clearly, that is not how it works but it encouraged me to eat fish.
Can a smoothie help relieve some of the symptoms?
There has been some success in the use of classical neurotrophic factors to treat a variety of chronic and acute disorders of the central nervous system.5 Neurotrophic factors promote the differentiation, survival and functional maintenance of nerve cells. However, difficulty in crossing the blood-brain barrier limits the use of classical neurotrophic factors.5 Therefore, there is a need to identify small molecules that mimic neurotrophic factors.
Studies suggest that fisetin (Figure 1) can facilitate long-term memory, therefore, it may be useful for treating patients with memory disorders.5 Fisetin is a naturally occurring flavonoid compound present in many fruits and vegetables (Figure 2) including strawberries, apples, cucumbers and onions.8 It is also available over-the-counter as a supplement.8
Pre-clinical studies data show that fisetin has some of the properties of classical neurotrophic factors and could potentially be beneficial when it to comes to Alzheimer’s disease.5 However, it is important to note here that no studies have been carried out in humans.8 Some of the theoretical benefits of fisetin suggested from pre-clinical studies are listed below.5, 9
- It promotes differentiation and survival of the nerve cell (it protects nerve cells from oxidative stress-induced death)
- Enhances long-term memory by activating signalling pathways that contribute to the development of long-term memory
- Can act on many of the targets pathways implicated in Alzheimer’s disease
- Works through a different mechanism to other memory-enhancing compounds
- Is effective when given orally
Further research of fisetin could have a long-term beneficial effect on memory with relatively little cost or side effects as it is present in a number of commonly eaten foods.5 Fisetin is also being researched as a potential treatment to protect from breast cancer.10
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- Alzheimer, A., 1987.A Characteristic Disease of the Cerebral Cortex: Meeting of South-West Germany Psychiatrists Held in Tubingen on November 3rd and 4th, 1906.
- Alzheimer’s Society.https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/. Last Accessed 14 May 2017
- org.https://www.alzdiscovery.org/cognitive-vitality. Last Accessed 14 May 2017
- Wright JW, Harding JW et al. (2016) Small Molecule AngIV-based Analogs to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease. Int J Drug Dev & Res 8:021-027.
- Maher P, Akaishi T, Abe K (2006) Flavonoid fisetin promotes ERK-dependent long-term potentiation and enhances memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America103, 16568-16573.
- org.https://www.alzdiscovery.org/assets/content/cognitive_vitality/addf-vitamins-c-e-full-report.pdf. Last Accessed 21 May 2017
- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/12190200/The-3.45-Alzheimers-drink-that-stops-brain-from-shrinking.html. Last Accessed 14 May 2017
- org.https://www.alzdiscovery.org/cognitive-vitality/ratings/fisetin#ref-10.Last Accessed 21/05/2017
- Currais A, Prior M, Dargusch R et al. (2014)Modulation of p25 and inflammatory pathways by fisetin maintains cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice. Aging cell 13, 379-390.
- Bothiraja C, Yojana BD, Pawar AP et al. (2014) Fisetin-loaded nanocochleates: formulation, characterisation, in vitro anticancer testing, bioavailability and biodistribution study. Expert opinion on drug delivery 11, 17-29.