While doctors are prescribing expensive drugs that can have devastating side effects to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s, we might be able to prevent the onset of this cruel disease by something as simple, inexpensive, and safe as a dose of marine oil every day during our younger years.
In the United States, as many as 5.3 million people are living with Alzheimer’s, according to 2009 statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association. The number of people with the disease is predicted to double every 20 years. The latest medical thinking is that the escalating rate of Alzheimer’s disease has its roots in chronic inflammation that’s a result of the modern diet of manufactured and denatured foods that are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) describes Alzheimer’s disease as an irreversible progressive brain disease that destroys memory and the ability to think. The first symptoms generally appear after the age of 60. Amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain are two of the main physical indications of Alzheimer’s disease. There is also a loss of connections between nerve cells.
According to the NIA, the damage that eventually turns into Alzheimer’s disease can begin to occur 20 years before the first symptoms of dementia appear. Memory problems are one of the first signs that the downward slide to Alzheimer’s disease may be going on inside someone’s brain. A level of deterioration in memory is expected as people age, but any noticeable decline in memory or other cognitive abilities should be enough to prompt a person to see a doctor. Other symptoms include loss of motor control and problems with one’s sense of smell.
Prevailing medical opinion is that once the degenerative process involved in Alzheimer’s disease begins, it can, at best, be slowed. It cannot be stopped. It makes sense, therefore, to do whatever we can to prevent the process from beginning.
The Inflammation-Alzheimer’s Link
While some people have drawn a genetic short straw that predisposes them to develop Alzheimer’s disease, the latest medical research has identified chronic inflammation as the first stage in the process. For example, a paper May 2007 article published in Neurology reported that researchers at Harvard Medical School had found that people whose blood carried the markers of inflammation were more likely to go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Blood tests were used to look for signs of inflammation, or inflammatory response molecules called cytokines. Test subjects who had the most cytokines in their blood were at least twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Another paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America in April 2004 proposed that inflammation could be the key event in the initiation of a chain reaction that led to Alzheimer’s disease. A team of academics from the Scripps Research Institute reported that inflammation caused amyloid beta proteins in the brain to misfold. Misfolded proteins are thought to have a critical role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
These and other revelations about the link between inflammation and Alzheimer’s have led to research on the potential for anti-inflammatories to prevent the onset of the disease. In one study, as far back as 1993, a team of researchers at Arizona’s Sun Health Research Institute conducted a trial on the use of the synthetic anti-inflammatory drug Indomethacin for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. The report published in Neurology that year showed that the anti-inflammatory drug "appeared to protect mild to moderately impaired Alzheimer’s disease patients from the degree of cognitive decline exhibited by a well-matched placebo-treated group."
Preventing Inflammation May Be Key
The evidence suggests that it would be a prudent thing for each of us to do whatever we can to minimize inflammation. While synthetic prescription anti-inflammatories have been shown to be beneficial as an Alzheimer’s preventative, the side effects of long-term use of such drugs can be serious.
Because of this, doctors have been looking for safer options for their Alzheimer’s patients. One way to address the problem of chronic inflammation is by adopting an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, which would by definition include adding enough omega 3 fatty acids to the diet to have a therapeutic benefit. One obvious way is to add oil-rich cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna to your diet and to limit the amount of red meat that you eat. But you can do a lot more to ensure that your body has all the omega 3 it needs by taking a dietary supplement.
One of the best sources of omega 3 is marine oils, usually sold as fish oil capsules derived from salmon. Research done by Dr. Michael Whitehouse of Brisbane, Australia, discovered that the most potent among marine oils is derived from the green-lipped mussel of New Zealand. Marketed under the name Lyprinol in the US, it has been shown to be 350 times more potent than salmon oil as a source of omega 3. Studies have also shown that as an anti-inflammatory, Lyprinol was as effective as prescription synthetic pharmaceuticals, but did not have any of the side effects or potential for adverse interactions with other drugs. The published journal articles on the green-lipped mussel oil can be found online by putting the words "Lyprinol clinical trial Whitehouse" into a search engine.
Since inflammation has been shown to be a culprit behind a great many conditions–from heart disease and arthritis to asthma and Alzheimer’s–it makes sense to get more omega 3 into your diet. If you can prevent chronic inflammation by taking high-potency marine oil without side effects, it makes sense to do it. It can’t hurt–and it may very well prevent a debilitating disease later in life.
Carl D.Thompson has spent most of his 34-year career as a journalist writing about health and medical matters. He has a particular interest in low-risk natural alternatives to synthetic drugs.
His new book is Inflammation: What Drug Companies Do not Want You to Know, which is available as a free e-book at www.urgenthealthnews.com.