Food is Medicine
A Low Choline Diet can Raise Alzheimer’s Risk
There are many nutritional problems that contribute to memory loss and cognitive decline. Once cognitive decline becomes symptomatic it reflects a well-established process of oxidative stress and inflammation. DNA and lipids in the brain are damaged by oxidation as we age, causing neuronal death contributing to Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment. Just as the intestines can become hyperpermeable in response to inflammation, so can the brain. In contrast to commonly held opinion, mild memory loss is not a normal part of aging and likely constitutes early stages of dementia (Wilson et al., 2010).
One of the major theories of Alzheimer’s is that amyloid beta peptide builds up plaque in the brain. Bredesen (2014), however, asserts that the amyloid beta peptide has a normal function in the brain, and rather the problem lies with an imbalance in nerve cell signaling. This has led to his design of a comprehensive approach to improving brain signaling using intensive nutrient supplementation, which has demonstrated reversal of cognitive decline in small clinical trials of Alzheimer’s patients. I review this approach and others in-depth in my new certification program.
All of the neurotransmitters (NTs) are essential for the maintenance of cognitive health. One of the most important for cognitive function is acetylcholine, which is required for sleep, memory, and neuromuscular function. Acetylcholine declines with age, and this contributes to a decline in neurological function. Dietary choline is one of the nutritional precursors of acetylcholine and is often deficient in the diets of vegetarians and vegans as well as people on low-fat and low-cholesterol diets, or those who abuse alcohol. Consumption of low levels of folate and vitamin B12 are also risk factors for the development of dementia (Wang et al., 2001), suggesting that vegetarians who are at risk for B12 deficits may be at higher risk.
You can learn more in my new certification course, Nutrition & Integrative Medicine for Diabetes, Cognitive Decline & Alzheimer’s Disease, and in my book Nutritional Essentials for Mental Health.
Bredesen, D. E. (2014). Reversal of cognitive decline: A novel therapeutic program. Aging, 6(9), 707–717.
Wilson, R. S., Barnes, L. L., Aggarwal, N. T., Boyle, P. A., Hebert, L. E., Mendes de Leon, C. F., & Evans, D. A. (2010). Cognitive activity and the cognitive morbidity of Alzheimer disease. Neurology, 75(11), 990. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181f25b5e.
Wang, H-X., Wahlin, Å., Basun, H., Fastbom, J., Winblad, B., Fratiglioni L. (2001). Vitamin B12 and folate in relation to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Neurology, 56(9), 1188–1194.