Living Hopefully with Alzheimer’s

Hardly a week goes by without some progress in the field of Alzheimer’s research. Although there is no cure yet, these study results give us hope. Here are some highlights from the most recent studies…

Music Magic
Music therapy has been used for decades to help patients with a variety of ailments. Research over the years has shown that music has profound effects on the brain. For instance, there is evidence that music can help reduce chronic pain, and help stroke patients regain speech. Music therapy has also been found to be beneficial for Alzheimer’s patients. Researchers at University of British Columbia found that music therapy helps calm Alzheimer’s patients and reduces sleep and eating difficulties. The study measured the patients’ cortisol levels. High levels of cortisol are an indication of stress. They found that music therapy had calming effects almost equal to those of a tranquilizer. Follow-up studies are needed to rule out the possibility that the patients’ improvements were due to the attention they received, not the music, the researchers say.

Diet Matters
A decade-long study has shown that diet matters for Alzheimer’s prevention. The study revealed that those participants who most closely followed the MIND diet reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 53%. The MIND diet is a cross between the Mediterranean and DASH diets. It emphasizes ten foods to eat daily and five foods to avoid (see details in story on page 3). Study participants who tried but did not follow the diet perfectly still reduced their risk of getting Alzheimer’s, while those who followed the diet most consistently for the longest time derived the greatest benefit.

Vitamin D
In one study, researchers found a link between Vitamin D deficiency and Alzheimer’s. The 1,658 study participants, all over the age of 65 years, had their Vitamin D levels checked and followed up over several years. During the course of the study, 171 participants developed dementia and 102 developed Alzheimer’s. The results showed that those with low levels of vitamin D were 70% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, and those who were severely deficient were 120% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than the participants with no Vitamin D deficiency. Although the study does not prove that Vitamin D deficiency causes Alzheimer’s, it has provided direction for further studies on the effect of Vitamin D supplements and foods rich in Vitamin D. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of the U.S. population is deficient in Vitamin D. We get Vitamin D from the sun, as well as from eating eggs, milk, cheese and fatty fish.

Dairy does it
In a recent study conducted at the University of Kansas Medical Center, older healthy adults who drink milk were found to have higher levels of glutathione, a naturally-occurring antioxidant, in the brain. This finding is important because glutathione could help to prevent damage caused by oxidative stress. The researchers compare this damage to that caused by rust building up on a car for a long time. The study participants who came close to eating the recommended three servings of dairy per day had higher levels of glutathione. More studies are needed to determine the precise effect of milk consumption on the brain, the researchers say.

Australian researchers have come up with an ultrasound technology to clear the brain of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles that cause clumps in the brain, resulting in memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients. The study, done on mice, fully restored the memory function of 75% of the mice, and did not cause any damage to their brain tissue. The sound waves activate the brain’s microglial cells. Microglial cells are waste-removal cells, so once activated, they clear out the toxic clumps in the brain. The research team from the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) at the University of Queensland will next test their results with higher animal models, such as sheep, before they begin their human trials, which they hope to begin in 2017.

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