Story at-a-glance

  • In the prevention and treatment of dementia (including Alzheimer’s type) and its associated cognitive changes, the rising star is astaxanthin due to its powerful antioxidant properties
  • The causes of Alzheimer’s disease are multifactorial, and the more risk factors you have, the more likely you will develop this sad, debilitating disease which has few effective treatments, making prevention extremely important
  • Factors known to contribute to dementia include diets too high in fructose, certain health conditions, nutritional deficiencies, and environmental toxins
  • Key approaches to preventing and reducing the symptoms of dementia include good dietary choices, regular exercise (physical and mental), and making sure you are consuming enough B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin E, and high-quality omega-3 fats
  • Besides astaxanthin, natural treatments that science has shown have promise in the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s are coconut oil, Gingko biloba, and alpha lipoic acid (ALA)

Astaxanthin: A Rising Star in Alzheimer's Prevention

July 01 2012 |16,244views| + Add to Favorites

By Dr. Mercola

In the United States, someone develops Alzheimer's disease every 69 seconds, and by 2050 this is expected to increase to a new case every 33 seconds, according to the Alzheimer's Association's 2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figuresi.

The disease is currently at epidemic proportions, with 5.4 million Americans—including one in eight people aged 65 and over—living with Alzheimer's disease.

By 2050, this is expected to jump to 16 million, and in the next 20 years it is projected that Alzheimer's will affect one in four Americans. If that comes to pass, it would then be more prevalent than obesity and diabetes is today!

Alzheimer's is a sad, devastating disease that develops slowly and gets worse over time. Worse yet, there is no known cure and very few treatments. Alzheimer's drugs are often of little to no benefit at all, which underscores the importance of prevention throughout your lifetime.

Alzheimer's develops over the course of a few decades, so the time to start preventing it is yesterday. Your approach to preventing this terrible disease should be a comprehensive lifestyle approach.

I will be discussing the most important aspects of this in a moment, but first, I would like to share new findings about one particular nutritional supplement that has scientists very excited in the battle against Alzheimer's disease.

Astaxanthin is a Rising Star in Alzheimer's Prevention

Astaxanthin is a natural pigment with unique properties and many clinical benefits, including some of the most potent antioxidant activity currently known. It is the same pigment that makes flamingos pink.

These birds are born with grey feathers—and after consuming their natural diet of astaxanthin-containing algae and crustaceans, they turn pink! It has been found to reduce the accumulation of phospholipid hydroperoxidases (PLOOH)—compounds known to accumulate in the red blood cells of people who suffer from dementia—and scientists now believe astaxanthin could help prevent dementia, including Alzheimer's.

As a fat-soluble nutrient, astaxanthin readily crosses your blood-brain barrier. One studyii found it may help prevent neurodegeneration associated with oxidative stress, as well as make a potent natural "brain food."

The molecules of astaxanthin neutralize free radicals and other oxidants without being destroyed or becoming pro-oxidants themselves in the process. It's is a unique molecule whose shape allows it to precisely fit into a cell membrane and span its entire width. In this position, astaxanthin can intercept potentially damaging moleculesbefore they can damage your cells.

In fact, astaxanthin is hundreds of times more effective than vitamin E in squelching singlet oxygen free radicals, and far exceeds the free radical scavenging power of vitamin C, CoQ10, beta-carotene, and green tea. According to a recent article in the Alternative Medicine Reviewiii:

"Astaxanthin improved cognition in a small clinical trial and boosted proliferation and differentiation of cultured nerve stem cells… Astaxanthin's clinical success extends beyond protection against oxidative stress andinflammation, to demonstrable promise for slowing age-related functional decline."

This supports the findings of a prior 2011 study in theBritish Journal of Nutrition that showed taking 6 mg or 12 mg of astaxanthin daily for 12 weeks lowered levels of PLOOH by 40 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

It is unlikely you will be able to obtain enough astaxanthin from diet alone… unless you are a flamingo. You can get some astaxanthin by taking krill oil, which is a fantastic omega-3 fat supplement. But you can boost your astaxanthin even MORE by adding a pure astaxanthin supplement to your nutritional regimen. For optimal absorption, make sure to take krill oil and/or astaxanthin with a fat-containing meal, since both are fat-soluble.

"Senior Moments" are NOT a Normal Part of Aging

In spite of how common memory loss is among Westerners, it is NOT a "normal" part of aging. Research has shown that even mild "senior moments" are caused by the same brain lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. These cognitive changes are by no means inevitable! People who experience very little decline in their cognitive function up until their deaths have been found (post-mortem) to be free of brain lesions, showing that it's entirely possible to prevent the damage from occurring in the first place.

What Causes Alzheimer's Disease?

In order to effectively prevent a disease, you must address its underlying causative factors. Although we do not have definitive "proof" of what, specifically, causes Alzheimer's, a number of factors have been linked to an increased risk of dementia, and we know enough about those to in turn make educated recommendations for preventing this type of brain deterioration.

The more risk factors you have, the higher your changes are for developing dementia. You may already know I have become passionate about warning of the dangers of fructose. There is NO question in my mind that regularly consuming more than 25 grams of fructose per day will increase your risk of losing your mind.Fructose will catalyze the impact of virtually every other risk factor, like exposure to toxins such as aluminum, or mercury, or even genetic predispositions. It does this by impairing your body's normal self-repair capacity and its ability to recover from these types of assaults.

Following are a number of other factors associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. Please note that the first four are related to fructose intake.

Health conditions and drug therapies

  • Obesity, especially increased belly fatinsulin resistance, and diabetes: diabetics have up to 65 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Keep your fasting insulin level below 3 by minimizing sugar and grains and exercising regularly.
  • Elevated uric acid levels: fructose is one of the primary factors that drives up uric acid, which is another reason to avoid excess sugar.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Heart disease and atrial fibrillationiv: If you have "atrial fib," you are 44 percent more likely to develop dementia.
  • Thyroid dysfunction.v
  • Head traumavi: There appears to be a "strong link" between a history of head trauma and Alzheimer's disease, especially if the trauma occurred repeatedly or involved loss of consciousness—so keep your seat belt fastened.
  • Anticholinergic drugs: Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers.

One studyvii found that those who took drugs classified as "definite anticholinergics" had a four times higher incidence of cognitive impairment. Regularly taking two of these drugs further increased the risk.

Nutritional deficiencies

  • Vitamin D deficiency: In 2007 researchers at the University of Wisconsin uncovered strong links between low levels of vitamin D in Alzheimer's patients and poor outcomes on cognitive tests. Vitamin D may enhance the levels of important chemicals in your brain that protect your brain cells and combat the brain inflammation seen in dementia patients.

    A 2011 study at UCLA found the combination ofvitamin D3 and curcumin (the pigment that makes turmeric yellow) to be a highly beneficial combination for Alzheimer's patients.Vitamin D can also fight depression, which is experienced frequently by people with dementia.

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