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Tangled Wires

Untangling Alzheimers Mystery

Author Wendy Wells, NMD.

Estimates show by the year 2030, 20% of people over 65 will have dementia, or Alzheimer's Disease. [1]

Alzheimer's world map
Darker areas show higher AD rates.

Defining Alzheimer's

The Causes?

Progression of Alzheimer's
Amyloid burden over time. Cortical mapping Br. J. Radiology

We don't know for sure. What we DO know is what helps prevent Alzheimer's Disease and what increases your risk. Here's a short list I've compiled from the research:

Neurofibrillary Tangles - Twisted fragments of tau protein within nerve cells, limiting cell to cell communication. [3]

Neuritic Plaques - Disrupts regulation of calcium channel, leads to abnormal clusters of dead and dying nerve cells, called beta-amyloid deposits. [4]

Senile Plaques - Areas where products of dying nerve cells have accumulated around proteins found in brain. [5]

Insulin resistance - Beta-amyloid proteins cause neuron to loss insulin receptors, interfering with it's signaling pathway. [6]

Amyloid Fibrils - Excess accumulation of amyloid fibrils are believed to be a toxic form of the protein responsible for disrupting the cell's calcium ion homeostasis, inducing programmed cell death. [7]

Inflammation - Inflammatory processes are general markers of tissue damage in any disease. [8]

Increases Risk

Decreases Risk

Lost keys?
"Where Are My Keys?"

Early Symptoms of Alzheimer's

The first signs of Alzheimer's include:

How Is Alzheimer's Different From Dementia?

Often Alzheimer's onset can be as early as age 45, where Dementia onset is usually age 70+. Dementia is a symptom of Alzheimer's, and also a symptom of many other conditions including:

What You Can Do?

The onset of Alzheimer's disease is easily evaluated and can respond to treatments, especially if detected early. Here are some guidelines that I offer to patients wanting to prevent even the earliest signs of Alzheimer's.

Getting Tested: A Clear Way Forward

If you suspect early signs of Alzheimer's, then I recommend taking the SAGE test. It's a written exam that checks for mental acuity. See: .

Targeting the right tests and accurately interpreting their results are essential to providing clear steps forward for you, and your doctor. Accredited naturopath physicians are uniquely qualified to provide the right tests, helping you to make wise, timely, and affordable health decisions.

Adapting Lifestyle

To minimize risks it's important to start early. Promising results are possible with the combination of "exercise, mental training, diet, and behavioral weight management." [25]

Here are some simple Alzheimer's prevention tips:

Reduce Stress

Get Active, Stay Active

Join a group, learn a new language, play crossword puzzles, volunteer at your local shelter. Research shows that learning and engaging in activities, especially later in life, helps maintain a healthier brain. [23]

Nutritional Foods: Reducing Alzheimer's Risks

In India, very few people get Alzheimer's disease. Why is this?

American Journal of Epidemiology in 2006 entitled "Curry consumption and cognitive function in the elderly." In this study, they investigated the association between the curry consumption and cognitive level in 1,010 Asians between 60 and 93 years of age. The study found that those who ate curry once a month or more scored better on cognitive tests than those who ate curry rarely or never. Curry contains turmeric a potent anti-inflammatory. [28]

ANSWER: Low calorie, low carb diet, including super foods that are dense in nutrients.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes high quality fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, unrefined cereals, olive oil, fermented dairy products such as yogurt and natural cheese, and fresh fish as daily staples. Red meat is limited to about one meal a month; poultry, eggs and sweets are not daily fare - they're eaten about once a week. Moderate amounts of red wine can be part of the diet. [29]

Coconut split in half

Coconut Oil Reverses Alzheimer's

One theory of AD is that it is caused by insulin resistance of the brain. The brain is not getting the fuel it needs via the standard glucose pathways. Our second way of getting glucose is via "ketone bodies" which are made by burning fat. [32]

Coconut oil produces ketone bodies when the fats in the oil are digested by the body. Ketone bodies serve to provide dearly needed "fuel" and energy to the brain when glucose levels are low, as in the case of Alzheimer's patients. Recommended dose is 1 tablespoon per day. Add to low heat stir-fry, smoothie, or morning hot cereal. See video: affecting Alzheimer's disease.

In 2011 the British Journal of Nutrtition a study showed the positive affects of young coconut juice on Alzheimers disease, not just coconut oil. [32a]

Three Key Nutrients - Supplements for Alzheimer's

1. Folate / Folic Acid High levels of this amino acid in the blood have been linked to reducing Alzheimer's disease, creating plaque that is less toxic, or inflammatory. In the Nov 2004, Journal of Neurological Science, results showed patients with low folic acid levels had abnormalities in brain in the hippocampus and amygdala. [33], [34]

Folic acid is derived exclusively from plant-based foods like green and leafy vegetables. Think leafy greens and beans.

Research studies emphasize an additional risk factor for dementia & alzheimer's: High levels of homocysteine.

"The risk of getting (Alzheimer's) was 3.3 times greater among people whose blood folic acid levels were in the lowest one-third range and 4.5 times greater when blood homocysteine levels were in the highest one-third". - Clarke, et. al. [13]

In the November-December 2004 issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. It was found that those patients with the highest homocysteine levels have abnormalities, appearing on their brain MRI, known as white matter hyper-intensities, common in patients with dementia. Homocysteine increases the risk of micro and macro vascular disease. Higher homocysteine levels were related to increased strokes, cognitive impairment, and brain atrophy. Getting tested for homocysteine levels.

Since high levels of homocysteine is directly related to neural tissue damage, the author of this study indicates the lowering of high homocysteine levels should begin early in life. Homocysteine is derived primarily from animal protein, so it's best to limit the consumption of red meat, as homocysteine is derived primarily from animal protein. The following are known to reduce homocysteine levels:

2. Vitamin E - A fat-soluble vitamin, may also help fight the formation of plaque buildup seen in Alzheimer's patients. I recommend 400-1000 IU. Taken with 1000mg of vitamin C.

Vitamin E at a dose of 2000 IU/day has been shown to slow the progression of mid-stage AD primarily because it protects cell membranes from oxidative damage. [35]

A study published in the 2/04 issue of the Archives of Neurology involving 4,740 participants over five-years. It showed those who had been taking vitamin supplements were at a 64 percent lower risk of the disease than those who had not. [36]

"Our findings suggest that vitamins E and C may offer protection against Alzheimer's disease when taken together in the higher doses available from individual supplements."

3. Omega 3 - Protects brain against cognitive decline, well-established in research, even in patients with AD it preserved their verbal fluency. [37], [38]

A follow-up study on lowering the risk of Alzheimer's disease, published in the Jun 2012 issue of Archives of Neurology, states that a diet omega-3 fatty acids was associated with lower beta-amyloid plasma levels. [39]

Other Nutritional Supplements

Niacin-amide - While the niacin-amide didn't have any effect on the most common marker of Alzheimer's, beta-amyloid, it did cause a 60 percent decrease in another marker, called "tau protein" (one specifically referred to as "Thr231-phospho-tau". [40]

Lithium aspartate or orotate - In an article he notes "Another well-known cause of brain cell injury is over-activated N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Lithium can inhibit this over activity. And lithium also increases production of a major brain protective protein called "bcl-2" in both human and animal brain cells. [41]

Alpha Lipoic Acid - In a recent study, people with Alzheimer's disease were given tests that measured thought and memory. They were then given ALA supplements for an average of 11 months. At the end of the study, the participants were tested again. The results showed that every person had higher scores on the thought and memory tests than they had at the beginning. [42]

Progression of Alzheimer's
Turmeric flower who's roots contain curcumin, studied for it's ability to slow the progression of Alzheimer's. [43]

Botanical Herbs

Gingko biloba increases antioxidants to brain cells, increases glucose utilization - In studies of individuals with Alzheimer's disease, the results showed that ginkgo slowed down the disease in those severely afflicted and actually improved those with very mild or moderate disease. In one of these studies, ginkgo was compared to four prescription cholinesterase inhibitors, medications commonly used to treat individuals with Alzheimer's disease. Using written mental tests, the researchers found that,

"Ginkgo worked just as effectively as the prescription drugs. While those taking one of the cholinesterase inhibitors dropped out of the study because of disturbing side effects, ginkgo had no side effects and improved symptoms equally as well." [44], [45]

Extract from a club moss, Huperzia serrata that has been used for centuries in Chinese folk medicine. Huperzine increases acetylcholine. Alzheimer's disease is a condition where there's a relative shortage of acetylcholine. In China, the studies show that Huperzine works more effectively than drugs for AD. [46] See:

In order to make memories and to learn, our brains need Acetylcholine.


Always seek the help of an accredited naturopathic physician to guide your process. You may need more extensive treatment, or testing to get to the cause to find relief from your health issue.

AD rates are rising, but the good news is that this disease is preventable, but we have to start early. Right now!


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13. Clarke, et. al., Archive of Neurology, 1998.

14. History of Medically Treated Diabetes and Risk of Alzheimer Disease in a Nationwide Case-Control Study. Diabetes Care. 2013 PMID:23340883

15. The neuropathology and neurobiology of traumatic brain injury. Neuron. 2012 Dec 6;76(5):886-99. PMID:23217738

16. Gender modulates the APOE 4 effect in healthy older adults: convergent evidence from functional brain connectivity and spinal fluid tau levels. Journal of Neuroscience. 2012 Jun 13;32(24):8254-62. PMID:22699906

16a. Biomarkers of Vascular Risk, Systemic Inflammation, and Microvascular Pathology and Neuropsychiatric Symptoms in Alzheimer's Disease. Journal of Alzheimers Disease. 2013 Feb 12. PMID:23403534 (Gender differences suggest distinct impact of specific risks with total cholesterol, a measure of cardiovascular risk, being the strongest marker for males and IL-15, a marker of inflammation, being the strongest for females.)

17. High blood pressure and cognitive decline in mild cognitive impairment. Journal of American Geriatr Soc. 2013 Jan;61(1):67-73 PMID:23301925

18. -Amyloid-aluminum complex alters cytoskeletal stability and increases ROS production in cortical neurons. Neurochem Int. 2013 Feb 13. PMID:23416043 (Aluminum binds with -Amyloid, producing toxins called reactive oxygen species, ROS)

18a. Copper prevents amyloid-(1-42) from forming amyloid fibrils under near-physiological conditions in vitro. Science Rep. 2013;3:1256. PMID:23409247 ("The biophysical properties of Cu(II)-A(42) aggregates are of significant importance to their putative involvement in the amyloid cascade hypothesis of AD and are currently the subject of strong debate.")

18b. The missing link in the amyloid cascade of Alzheimer's disease - Metal ions. Neurochem Int. 2013 Feb 6. pii: S0197-0186(13)00032-6. PMID:23395747 (An increasing amount of evidence shows that biometals Zn(II) and Cu(II) can interact with A, thus influencing the fibrillization and toxicity.)

18c. Role of Brain Iron Accumulation in Cognitive Dysfunction: Evidence from Animal Models and Human Studies. Journal of Alzheimers Disease. 2012 Dec 27. PMID:23271321 (Iron accumulates in brain regions of patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases.)

19. The butter flavorant, diacetyl, exacerbates -amyloid cytotoxicity. Chemistry Research Toxicology. 2012 Oct 15;25(10):2083-91. PMID: 22731744

20. Apolipoprotein E, not fibrillar -amyloid, reduces cerebral glucose metabolism in normal aging. Journal of Neuroscience. 2012 Dec 12;32(50):18227-33. (APOE e4 gene)

21. Physical exercise as a possible strategy for brain protection: evidence from mitochondrial-mediated mechanisms. (Among several non-pharmacological strategies to prevent brain degeneration, physical exercise is a surprisingly effective strategy)

21a. Feasibility and perception of the impact from aerobic exercise in older adults with Alzheimer's disease. American Journal of Alzheimers Dis Other Demen. 2012 Sep;27(6):397-405. PMID:22871905

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23. Active Learning Memory Improvements: A Review by Heartspring. Jan; 2013

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26a. The effects of meditation on perceived stress and related indices of psychological status and sympathetic activation in persons with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers: a pilot study. Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine. PMID:22454689

27. Sleep Ref #22.

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30. Linking pesticide exposure and dementia: What is the evidence? Toxicology. 2013 Feb 14. PMID:23416173

31. Effects of nutrients (in food) on the structure and function of the nervous system: update on dietary requirements for brain. Part 1: micronutrients. Journal of Nutrition Health Aging. 2006 Sep-Oct;10(5):377-85.

32. Can coconut oil replace caprylidene for Alzheimer disease?

32a. Young coconut juice, a potential therapeutic agent that could significantly reduce some pathologies associated with Alzheimer's disease: novel findings. Br J Nutr. 2011 Mar;105(5):738-46. doi: 10.1017/S0007114510004241. Epub 2010 Nov 30. PMID:21114897

33. Towards defining the neuropathological substrates of vascular dementia. Journal of the Neurological SciencesVolume 226, Issue 1, Pages 75-80, 15 November 2004

34. Folate and Alzheimer: when time matters. Journal of Neural Transm. 2013 Jan;120(1):211-24

35. A controlled trial of selegiline, alpha-tocopherol, or both as treatment for Alzheimer's disease. The Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study. New England Journal of Medicine 1997; 336:1216-1222.

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39. Nutrient intake and plasma -amyloid. Neurology. 2012 Jun 5;78(23):1832-40.

40. Dietary niacin and the risk of incident Alzheimer's disease and of cognitive decline. Journal of Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2004 Aug;75(8):1093-9. PMID:15258207

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42. Nutritional approaches to modulate oxidative stress in Alzheimer's disease. Curr Alzheimer Research. 2011 Aug;8(5):452-69. PMID:21605052

43. Natural products as a rich source of tau-targeting drugs for Alzheimer's disease. Future Medicine Chemistry. 2012 Sep;4(13):1751-61. PMID:22924511

44. by University of Maryland Medical Center

45. Related research: Mitochondrial effects of Ginkgo biloba extract.

46. New insights into huperzine A for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Acta Pharmacological Sin. 2012 Sep;33(9):1170-5. PMID:22941287

47. Resveratrol protects rats from A-induced neurotoxicity by the reduction of iNOS expression and lipid peroxidation. PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e29102. PMID:22220203

48. Cannabinoids for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: moving toward the clinic. Front Pharmacol. 2014; 5: 37. Mar 5, 2014. doi:10.3389/fphar.2014.00037 PMC3942876

49. Curcumin as a Therapeutic Agent in Dementia: A Mini Systematic Review of Human Studies. Scientific World Journal. 2014; 2014: 174282. Jan 22, 2014. doi:10.1155/2014/174282 PMC3919104

Wendy Wells
Wendy Wells NMD, naturopath medical doctor.
contactGet a free 15 minute phone consultation.
Call 480 607 0299

Article reviewed by ND.

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Updated: Jan 8 2015