Sunday, 8 March 2009

Look after your brain.

"One in three people over 65 will die with dementia..." said Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society. I read this in a recent BBC News article Vitamin D 'is mental health aid' which referred to the study Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Concentration and Cognitive Impairment.
The article contained the usual phrase "...more work was needed..."

The above article also led to Parkinson's linked to vitamin D which referred to the study Prevalence of vitamin d insufficiency in patients with Parkinson disease and Alzheimer disease. "However, the Emory University researchers do not yet know if the vitamin deficiency is a cause or the result of having Parkinson's". "Further research is required...." yet again.

It's like someone standing by their broken-down car wondering whether it's the empty fuel tank that's made the car stop or whether it's the car stopping that's made the fuel tank empty. Does it matter? Just put some fuel in the tank and see what happens! See also Higher serum vitamin D3 levels are associated with better cognitive test performance in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Severe Mental Impairment blights the lives of many old people and their loved ones. My mum developed Parkinson's Disease a few years ago. I didn't know anything about the condition at the time, but it's caused by the formation of Lewy Bodies (blobs of abnormally-folded alpha-synuclein protein) in the substantia nigra part of the brain, which controls movement. This part of the brain has high levels of the Vitamin D receptor. I don't know why the brain contains Vitamin D receptors, but I think that they'd like to receive some Vitamin D!

As Lewy Bodies form in other parts of the brain, mental faculties decline. The hippocampus is involved with short-term memory. The neocortex is involved with concious thought.

Mum started showing obvious signs of mental impairment in August 2007. She was assessed by a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) in January 2008 when she scored 14/30 in a MMSE. She was unable to remember 3 words or follow 2 simple instructions in a row (e.g. fold this piece of paper in half and put it on the floor). I started her on 5,000iu/day of Vitamin D3, as it was having a positive effect on my mental function. She was prescribed Aricept, starting at 5mg/day for a month then increasing to 10mg/day. In May 2008 she was re-assessed and scored 26/30 in a MMSE. EDIT: In 2010, Mum's consultant told me that Aricept increases MMSE score by 3 points on average.

Unfortunately, Aricept has side-effects including severe diarrhoea and worsening of the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease, which she complained about, so her Aricept dose was reduced back down to 5mg/day.

Unsurprisingly, this resulted in a slight decline in mum's mental faculties. In November 2008, I increased her intake of smoked salmon to about 400g/week, as the consumption of long-chain omega-3 pufas have benefits. See
Low Plasma N-3 Fatty Acids and Dementia in Older Persons: The InCHIANTI Study.

After about four weeks, this had a noticeable (by myself and mum's friend) positive effect on her mental faculties so, inspired by Dr Art Ayers, I started her on Turmeric (curcumin) extract and Goldenseal (berberine) extract. See
Curcumin inhibits aggregation of alpha-synuclein
Neuroprotective effects of curcumin
Alpha-synuclein assembly as a therapeutic target of Parkinson's disease and related disorders
Curcumin labels amyloid pathology in vivo, disrupts existing plaques, and partially restores distorted neurites in an Alzheimer mouse model
Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers
Research on the mechanism of neuronal apoptosis in Alzheimer's disease and the effects of tetrohydroberberine on the apoptosis... and
Berberine chloride can ameliorate the spatial memory impairment and increase the expression of interleukin-1beta and inducible nitric oxide synthase in the rat model of Alzheimer's disease.

On January 12th 2009, mum was re-assessed and scored 26/30 in a MMSE. I thought that this was impressive considering that a) she was taking half the dose of Aricept, compared to when she previously got that score, b) she had no adverse effects from taking any of the supplements and c) she was 8 months older and degenerative brain diseases always worsen with the passage of time.

I mentioned to the CPN who did the MMSE that I was starting mum on 15mg/week Vitamin K2 as there were benefits. See
Menaquinone-4 concentration is correlated with sphingolipid concentrations in rat brain ,
Vitamin K status influences brain sulfatide metabolism in young mice and rats ,
Substantial sulfatide deficiency and ceramide elevation in very early Alzheimer's disease: potential role in disease pathogenesis and
The possible role of vitamin K deficiency in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease and in augmenting brain damage associated with cardiovascular disease
I don't know what sphingolipids are (I know who probably does) but sulfatides are good and ceramides are bad.

Around the time that mum collapsed, I received a copy of a letter from the CPN to mum's GP which stated "I have informed him (i.e. me) that I am unaware of any robust evidence that these substances are of any benefit." However, there is no evidence that these substances are of any harm.

And finally......
What started the cascade of confusion and collapse leading to hospitalisation and discharge to a nursing home was a simple Urinary Tract Infection UTI) of e. coli. I don't know why UTIs cause so much confusion in elderly people, but elderly females are at a high risk of developing UTIs because a) elderly people don't drink enough so they don't pass enough urine, b) females have insufficient spacing between anus & urethra and c) elderly females who have any urinary/faecal leakage wear a Tena disposable "nappy/diaper", which increases the likelihood of faeces entering the urethra.

To reduce the risk of further UTIs, I have supplied the nursing home with a pot of D-mannose Plus, which contains D-mannose and cranberry extract, with instructions to add a heaped teaspoonful to a glass of juice once a week. See Intervening with urinary tract infections using anti-adhesives based on the crystal structure of the FimH-oligomannose-3 complex,
Natural approaches to prevention and treatment of infections of the lower urinary tract and
Vitamin D Induction of the Human Antimicrobial Peptide Cathelicidin in the Urinary Bladder.

EDIT: Thanks to Galina L for bringing the following study to my attention.
Magnesium supplementation in the treatment of dementia patients.
It's probably of no help to Lewy Body Dementia sufferers, as they already have high Mg levels in their CSF. See CSF Mg and Ca as diagnostic markers for dementia with Lewy bodies.

Continued on Look after your brain, Part 2.