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17 September 2012
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of all cases. It is a progressive, degenerative illness that attacks the brain. In 2009 the number of Australians with dementia was estimated to be245,000 (over one per cent of the population). With the ageing population the number of Alzheimer’s cases is set to increase sharply. By 2050, the total number will exceed 1,130,000 more than a fourfold increase since 2009. It seems though that vitamin C and betacarotene might be weapons in the fight against dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a debilitating condition that features gradual memory loss, a decline in ability to perform routine tasks, disorientation, impaired judgement, loss of language and communication skills, changes in personality, and more. There are currently no treatments proven to halt Alzheimer’s Disease and researchers in the area believe that the disease process actually begins long before we are able to detect it so prevention is the best hope. That is why researchers decided to investigate whether antioxidants might offer some protection.
The theory goes that Alzheimer’s results from brain changes that occur as a result of amyloid plaques that accumulate in the brain. It is thought that these plaques and the changes that result from them might be due to oxidative stress so antioxidants might be of some help in preventing Alzheimer’s occurring.
To test this researchers examined 1,500 adults aged between 65 and 90 years of age. The subjects were asked questions about their lifestyle and had blood samples taken and their body mass index (BMI) measured. The results of people with Alzheimer’s Disease were then compared to those without Alzheimer’s.
There was no difference between the two groups in levels of the antioxidants co-enzyme Q10, lycopene, and vitamin E. However, vitamin C and betacarotene levels were much lower in the people with Alzheimer’s. Perhaps vitamin C and betacarotene selectively act against the oxidative drivers of the Alzheimer’s process?
More research needs to be done but it is certainly worthwhile to get stuck into foods rich in these nutrients like spinach, broccoli, oranges, capsicum, strawberries, papayas, and carrots. Not only will you have the basis for an excellent ratatouille and accompanying fruit salad but you will be generally better for it and perhaps be reducing your chances of developing Alzheimer’s into the bargain.