folic acid and Alzheimer's disease

  1. Don't forget folic acid

    Don't forget folic acid

    In the November 29 installment of Daily Dose ("Out fox Parkinson's"), I reported to you about the benefits of folic acid (folate) in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. Well, it seems that researchers are just beginning to grasp folate's wide potential. A study done at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden has found a link between low levels of folic acid and incidence of Alzheimer's disease (AD).

    Researchers followed 370 healthy volunteers, ages 75 and older, for three years, regularly monitoring their levels of folic acid and vitamin B12 (which is closely related to folate) and tracking the incidence of dementia diagnosed within that time frame. They found that subjects with low levels of these nutrients were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease as those subjects with adequate levels.

    You can begin to increase your levels of folic acid and vitamin B12 (as well as vitamin B6) by eating citrus fruits and fresh green leafy veggies like spinach. But since our soil is so depleted of nutrients, you'd be wise to take nutritional supplements too. Take 800 micrograms each of folic acid and vitamin B12 (by mouth). In addition, take 500 milligrams of B6 (by mouth) per day. These nutrients are available in health food stores and many pharmacies.

  2. Count on HGH instead of counting sheep

    Count on HGH instead of counting sheep

    The level of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) in our blood tends to decline as we age. In some very elderly patients, it goes to zero. I suspect, although I haven't seen any studies on it, that as you approach the zero level, you approach the Pearly Gates. In the past, I've explored the possible relationship between insomnia and HGH deficiency. In 1998 I predicted that maybe, in conjunction with melatonin, HGH could be the answer to insomnia among the elderly.

    A University of Chicago School of Medicine study, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association has confirmed what I suspected: "The percentage of sleep decreases from 18.9 percent to 3.4 percent from early adulthood to mid-life, and that this change is paralleled by a decrease in growth hormone secretion."

    However, the Chicago researchers are taking an approach to the issue with which I disagree. They posit that insufficient sleep is depressing HGH levels in these patients. Therefore, they reason, the solution is to increase sleep by some pharmacologic method; i.e., some form of sleeping pill that will, in turn, increase HGH levels. Then, the patients will get the antiaging benefit of the increased HGH levels.

    Doctors and drug makers have been looking, without success, for the magic pill to treat insomnia at least since the time of Shakespeare ("Sleep, sweet sleep"). HGH will improve sleep, but sleeping pills are not going to raise HGH levels by any significant degree.

    As I said above, if you are over 40, you probably need HGH supplementation. But the HGH products readily available in health food stores are a waste of money. If you are serious about reaching a healthy old age, find a doctor who understands HGH therapy. (You may wish to contact the American College for the Advancement of Medicine at 800-532-3688 for a referral.) You will have to take a shot of HGH, similar to an insulin injection, four days a week. Once you have stabilized, the nurse can teach you how to give yourself the shot or a member of your family can do it.

    No Alzheimer's nun!

    The naysayers on the importance of nutrients for health don't sneer as they used to. They have been silenced by the overwhelming evidence in favor of nutritional therapy for both prevention and treatment of a number of conditions.

    We have known for years that folic acid is essential to prevent certain birth defects and in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. I have written extensively on the importance of folate in the neutralization of homocysteine and xanthine oxidase. The latest discovery on the benefits of folic acid may be as momentous as these earlier findings.

    A continuing study of 678 nuns has revealed that those who showed little evidence of Alzheimer's disease at the time of their deaths, all elderly, also had high levels of folic acid when they died. There was not a single case of Alzheimer's disease, which was confirmed by post-mortem examination of their brains.

    Of course, there are a lot of confounding factors in a study like this one: Were the nuns all from the same village or area where people are known to enjoy long lives? Did they drink red wine consistently all of their lives? Did they eat a lot of high-quality animal protein and animal fat? Did they restrict their amounts of refined carbohydrates?

    Whether this study is valid or not, folic acid (folate) has proven itself to be a "broad-spectrum" nutrient. Just imagine protection from high blood pressure, depression, stroke, blood-clot formation, cardiovascular disease, cancer protection, and now possibly Alzheimer's disease. That's quite an arsenal for a single nutrient!

    While vegetables and fruit contain folic acid, cooking washes most of it out from the vegetables. Your most reliable sources are egg yolks, liver, and fish. The U.S. recommended daily allowance of folic acid for adults is 400 micrograms a day. Using their typical overkill tactics, they've made it illegal for a supplement company to recommend any more than 800 micrograms a day. Larger amounts are quite safe and most likely beneficial. I recommend a supplement of 1,000 micrograms daily.

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