Weightloss boosts memory, says new study

New York: Weightloss boosts memory, according to a new study from Kent State University in Ohio.

Tests were carried out on 150 volunteers who weighed 21 stone plus and these were compared with healthy people.

In many of the tests the scores of a quarter of the obese participants were so low they were considered learning disabled.

Following the tests, two thirds of them has gastric by-pass surgery and lost an average of 3st. 8lb. And after 12 weeks took the same tests again.

In the group who had lost weight, the scores involving memory had been boosted, as well as improvements in organisational skills.

The results of 41 volunteers who declined obesity surgery declined further.

The researchers discovered, by using magnetic resonance imaging of the brain that obese people appeared to have damage to the organis substances around the nerve fibres responsible for chemical brainmemory.jpgmessage communications.


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Middle-aged smokers at increased risk of dementia


New York: Smoking in middle age increases the risk of developing dementia by nearly 75%, a new study from the US claims.

IResearchers at Minnesota University found smokers aged between 46 and 70 were at least 70 per cent more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s in later years than those who had never smoked.

The study, published in the medical magazine, the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, also revealed the links between ¬Ďlifestyle-factor¬í diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and dementia.

People with high blood pressure, for example, were 60 per cent more likely to develop dementia while people with diabetes had more than double the risk of the same disease.

Lead research Dr Alvaro Alonso, said: ¬ĎOur results emphasise the importance of early lifestyle modification and risk factor treatment to prevent dementia.¬í

Does calorie restriction boost brain power?


Berlin: Cutting calories may boost memory as well as increasing lifespan, according to a new study from Germany.

Older adults who cut down on the amount of calories they consume get a two-for-one special: weight loss and better memory, say scientists from the University of Munster, in a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They found that healthy women ranging in age from 50 to 80 who reduced their calorie intake by 30 percent for three months not only lost weight, but their scores on verbal memory tests also increased by 20 percent,

The study included 50 women, all of whom were either normal weight or slightly overweight. (The average body mass index was 28, which is about 175 pounds for a woman who is 5’6″.)

Twenty went on a calorie-cutting diet, another 20 upped their intake of unsaturated fatty acids (which some studies suggest may help ageing brains), and the remaining 10 kept to a normal diet.

Unlike the women who cut down on calories, the women who ate more unsaturated fatty acids showed no improvement in their memories, nor did those in the control group.

The researchers showed that women who cut calories became more sensitive to the blood sugar– regulating hormone insulin and had a drop in the inflammation-associated molecule C-reactive protein. Both factors have been linked to an improvement in brain function.

The findings add to growing evidence that calorie restriction can benefit health and longevity, but this shouldn’t prompt already skinny seniors to start dieting. Older people who lose too much weight increase their risk of falls and fractures.

And eating less isn’t the only way to get this effect. Exercise appears to exert similar effects on brain function by boosting insulin sensitivity and fighting inflammation.

Participants in the study who reduced their calorie intake met several times with dietitians for advice and were instructed not to eat less than 1,200 calories.

Experts believe that, increased inflammation and a drop in insulin sensitivity (which is known as insulin resistance) may help explain why obesity and type 2 diabetes have been linked to worse mental performance and a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Meanwhile, studies in animals dating back to the 1980s show caloric restriction can extend lifespan and slow aging. The current findings is another piece of evidence that what we see in laboratory rodents on caloric restriction translates to humans

Most studies in humans have looked at people who choose to sharply reduce their calorie intake long-term, he noted. This research has found clear signs of reduced cardiovascular disease risk, and perhaps slower ageing, in these individuals. But this kind of lifestyle change isn’t easy and is best done with professional help, Weindruch said. Health.com: 6 diet trends you should never try

Researchers who study caloric restriction have two main theories on how it might slow aging. One argument is that eating less slows down metabolism, so that the body produces fewer free radicals, which are byproducts of oxygen metabolism that can harm body tissues.

Another is that reducing calorie intake keeps cells under a constant low level of stress, which makes them better able to cope with higher levels of stress when it comes along similar to how the moderate stress induced by exercise can improve people’s health.

The German study will continue with larger studies of calorie restriction and mental function and will perform MRI brain scans on participants before and after they reduce their food intake in order to better understand what’s happening in the brain’s gray matter.

In the meantime, the findings offer yet another reason for people to try eating a little less.

Alzheimer’s – join the campaign to fight against mental decline


London: Research conducted by Help the Aged has revealed that the UK public rank mental decline higher than any other worry about ageing, including big issues like the pensions crisis and the fear of isolation (1).

In response to this concern, the Charity is today launching a new website www.disconnectedmind.org.uk to help mobilise public support for one of the world’s most promising scientific projects to combat the condition.

Help the Aged has committed to fund this historic project, called The Disconnected Mind, through to its conclusion in 2015. Donations are needed now to maximise the possibility of a breakthrough in the fight against early mental decline that usually leads to dementia (2).

The project is unique because the scientists leading the study at the University of Edinburgh will revisit 1,000 volunteers, who are now aged 71, who took part in the Scottish Mental Survey in 1947 ¬Ė a survey that has not been repeated since. The project will compare the participants¬í childhood mental ability, current ability, biological health and 60 years of life experience.

www.disconnectedmind.org.uk uniquely divides the project into tangible pieces so that the public can see how any donation from them, however small, can make a big difference. For example, just £45 would fund the in-depth examination of one participant’s test results, which could hold the secret to the prevention or treatment of mental decline.

Early mental decline often leads to dementia that affects 700,000 people in the UK. Tragically, this is expected to rise to over a million by 2025 unless new ways are found to combat it.

More on the Survey

(1) Survey by GfK NOP for Help the Aged. A sample of 1000 adults aged 16+ in the UK were interviewed during the weekend of 4th ¬Ė 6th May 2007. This survey was designed to be nationally representative of the telephone owning population of the UK. It revealed that mental decline ranks higher (41% of responses) than any other concern about ageing, including big issues like the pensions crisis/lack of savings and fear of isolation. Initial mental decline often leads to full dementia which the survey revealed is the age-related health condition of greatest concern, with 53% of respondents ranking it above strokes, incontinence and osteoporosis.

(2) Four out of five people who experience mild mental impairment go on to develop dementia within six years.

The team of experts at the University of Edinburgh performing The Disconnected Mind project are Professor Ian Deary, Doctor John Starr, Professor Jim McCulloch, Professor Joanna Wardlaw, Professor Richard Morris and Doctor Karen Horsburgh.
Help the Aged is the charity fighting to free disadvantaged older people in the UK and overseas from poverty, isolation, neglect and ageism. It campaigns to raise public awareness of the issues affecting older people and to bring about policy change. The Charity delivers a range of services: information and advice, home support and community living, including international development work. These are supported by its paid-for services and fundraising activities – which aim to increase funding in the future to respond to the growing unmet needs of disadvantaged older people. Help the Aged also funds vital research into the health issues and experiences of older people to improve the quality of later life.

Scientists create cells that disolve Alzheimer’s plaque

Genetically engineered cells, that produce an enzyme that disolves the toxic plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease, have been produced by scientists.

The researchers used mice which they infected with a human gene that caused them to develop, at an accelerated rate, the disease that robs millions of elderly people of their memories. After receiving the doctored cells, the brain-muddling plaques melted away. If this works in humans, old age could be a much happier time of life.

Alzheimer’s involves a protein called amyloid-beta, which makes up gooey clots or plaques that form in the brain. These toxic clumps, along with accessory tangled fibers, kill brain cells and interfere with memory and thinking. The situation has been compared to a build-up of cholesterol in coronary arteries.

¬ďDelivery of genes that led to production of an enzyme that breaks up amyloid showed robust clearance of plaques in the brains of the mice,¬Ē notes Dennis Selkoe, Vincent and Stella Coates Professor of Neurologic Diseases at Harvard Medical School. ¬ďThese results support and encourage further investigation of gene therapy for treatment of this common and devastating disease in humans.¬Ē

The first published report of the experiments, done by Selkoe and other researchers from Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s and McLean hospitals, appeared Aug. 27 on the Web site of the Public Library of Science.

The gene delivery technique employed by the research team has been used in several other trials with animals that model human diseases, including cancers. The procedure involves removing cells from patients, making genetic changes, and then putting back the modified cells, which should treat a disease or disability. So far, this approach has produced encouraging results for cancers, blood, muscle, and eye diseases, spinal cord injuries, stroke, Parkinson¬ís and Huntington diseases, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig¬ís disease). ¬ďSeveral of these potential treatments have advanced to human trials, with encouraging outcomes for patients,¬Ē says Matthew Hemming, lead author of the report and a graduate student in Selkoe¬ís lab.

Another way to do gene therapy involves using a virus to carry the curative gene to target cells. However, two people have died and three contracted leukemia in experiments using this method. The drawback of using viruses this way is that the added gene often mixes with the patient’s genome in ways that can lead to unwanted side effects, including cancer and, possibly, death.

The Harvard team used skin cells from the animal¬ís own body to introduce a gene for an amyloid-busting enzyme known as neprilysin. The skin cells, also known as fibroblasts, ¬ďdo not form tumors or move from the implantation site,¬Ē Hemming notes. ¬ďThey cause no detectable adverse side effects and can easily be taken from a patient¬ís skin.¬Ē In addition, other genes can be added to the fibroblast-neprilysin combo, which will eliminate the implants if something starts to go wrong.
Will it work in humans?

This method worked well in the Alzheimer’s experiments. ¬ďThe gene that removed the amyloid-beta may not only prevent brain cells from dying, but will also remove the toxic protein that drives the disease progression,¬Ē Hemming comments.

The experiments proved that the technique works, but will it work in humans? One major obstacle, Selkoe says, is the larger size of a human brain compared to that of a mouse. That difference will require an increase of amyloid-busting activity throughout a much larger space.

One solution might involve implanting the genes and fibroblasts where they have the best access to amyloid-beta, in the spinal fluid for example, instead of trying to inject them into a small target. The amyloid-killing combo might be put into capsules that would secrete neprilysin into the blood circulating in the brain, eliminating the need to hit an exact spot.

This or some other clever maneuver that does not require surgery might eliminate the gooey plaques, but will that improve a person¬ís memory? And will the change be long-lasting? ¬ďFurther work is needed to determine if reducing the plaque burden has cognitive benefits over a long period,¬Ē notes Hemming, ¬ďbut there¬ís a wealth of evidence arguing that it will.¬Ē

More information at www.news.harvard.edu

Folate shown to slow dementia, says new US report

New York: A folate study has revealed that the vitamin can slow the cognitive decline of ageing.

The research, presented at the recent US Alzheimer’s Association¬ís first conference on prevention of dementia, demonstrated that otherwise healthy people could slow the decline in their brain function by taking double the recommended daily dose of folate.

Scientists found that men and women 50-75 years old who took 800mcg of folate a day over three years scored significantly better in cognitive tests than peers taking a placebo. On memory tests, the supplement users had scores comparable to people 5.5 years younger, said the researchers from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

“It’s the first study to convincingly show that [folate] can slow cognitive decline,” said lead author Jane Durga. The study involved healthy older people, not those with Alzheimer’s symptoms, so it doesn’t show if folate might ward off that disease. “That’s the key question,” Durga said.

Previous research has suggested that folate along with other B vitamins can reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid thought to play a role in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The current study involved 818 middle-age adults who had elevated levels of homocysteine at baseline. They were randomized to receive either folate or a placebo for three years. Blood folate levels for those in the supplement group increased five-fold and plasma total homocysteine concentrations decreased by around 25 per cent by the end of the study.

“I think I would take [folate], assuming my doctor said it was OK,” said Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist Marilyn Albert, who chairs the Alzheimer’s Association’s science advisory council.

“We know Alzheimer’s disease, the pathology, begins many, many years before the symptoms. We ought to be thinking about the health of our brain the same way we think about the health of our heart,” she added.

Folate is found in such foods as oranges and strawberries, dark green leafy vegetables and beans. In the United States, it also is added to cereal and flour products.

Durga said it’s not clear how folate might work to protect the brain. Some studies suggest folate lowers inflammation; others suggest it may play a role in expression of dementia-related genes.

There is research now suggesting ways to protect the brain against age-related memory loss and Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association has begun offering classes to teach people the techniques. Topping the list:

* Exercise your brain. Using it in unusual ways increases blood flow and helps the brain wire new connections. That’s important to build up what’s called cognitive reserve, an ability to adapt to or withstand the damage of Alzheimer’s a little longer.
* In youth, that means good education. Later in life, do puzzles, learn to play chess, take classes.
* Stay socially stimulated. Declining social interaction with age predicts declining cognitive function.
* Exercise your body. Bad memory is linked to heart disease and diabetes because clogged arteries slow blood flow in the brain.
* Experts recommend going for the triple-whammy of something mentally, physically and socially stimulating all at once: Coach your child’s ball team. Take a dance class. Strategize a round of golf.
* Diet’s also important. While Alzheimer’s researchers have long recommended a heart-healthy diet as good for the brain, the folate study is the first to test the advice directly.

The recommended daily dose of folate in the USA is 400 micrograms; doctors advise women of childbearing age to take a supplement to ensure they get that much.

The research findings add to mounting evidence that a diet higher in folate is important for a variety of diseases. Scientists have long thought that folate might play a role in dementia, and previous studies have shown people with low folate levels are more at risk for both heart disease and diminished cognitive function.

For more information: www.hsfolate.com

Mix of diseases may cause Alzheimer’s

BETHESDA: Few older people die with brains untouched by a pathological process, however, an individual’s likelihood of having clinical signs of dementia increases with the number of different disease processes present in the brain, according to a new study.

The research was funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and conducted at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Julie Schneider, MD, and colleagues report the findings in the journal Neurology online.

Among their findings is the observation that the combination of Alzheimer’s disease and strokes is the most common mix of pathologies in the brains of people with dementia. The implication of these findings is that public health efforts to prevent and treat vascular disease could potentially reduce the occurrence of dementia, the researchers say in the paper.

The researchers used data from the Rush Memory and Aging Project ¬ó an ongoing study of 1,200 elderly volunteers who have agreed to be evaluated every year and to donate their brains upon death.

The current study compared clinical and autopsy data on the first 141 participants who have died.

Annual physical and psychological exams showed that, while they were alive, 50 of the 141 had dementia. Upon death, a neuropathologist, who was unaware of the results of the clinical evaluation, analyzed each person’s brain. The autopsies showed that about 85% of the individuals had evidence of at least one chronic disease process, such as Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, hemorrhages, tumors, traumatic brain injury or others.

Comparison of the clinical and autopsy results showed that only 30% of people with signs of dementia had Alzheimer’s disease alone. By contrast, 42% of the people with dementia had Alzheimer’s disease with infarcts and 16% had Alzheimer’s disease with Parkinson’s disease (including two people with all three conditions). Infarcts alone caused another 12% of the cases. Also, 80 of the 141 volunteers who died had sufficient Alzheimer’s disease pathology in their brains to fulfill accepted neuropathologic criteria for Alzheimer’s disease, although in life only 47 were clinically diagnosed with probable or possible Alzheimer’s disease.

“We know that people can have Alzheimer’s pathology without having symptoms,” says Dallas Anderson, PhD, population studies program director in the NIA Neuroscience and Neuopsychology of Aging Program. “The finding that Alzheimer’s pathology with cerebral infarcts is a very common combination in people with dementia adds to emerging evidence that we might be able to reduce some of the risk of dementia with the same tools we use for cardiovascular disease such as control of blood cholesterol levels and hypertension.”

NIA is conducting clinical trials to determine whether interventions for cardiovascular disease can prevent or slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. On-going trials cover a range of interventions such as statin drugs, vitamins and exercise.

SOURCE: The National Institutes of Health

UK’s Alzheimer’s Society commissions new study into link between diet and dementia

London: The UK’s Alzheimer¬ís Society has today commissioned a new research study into the link between diet and dementia. The review hopes to answer crucial questions about what aspects of diet can help to people lower their risk of developing the devastating disease.

Experts increasingly believe eating healthily is key to reducing risks and are hoping this new research study will galvanise research into this important area.

Sarah Day, Hearts and Brains project manager, Alzheimer’s Society says,

¬ĎFrom fruit juice to red wine there are lots of different studies that have linked dementia to diet. For the first time in the UK, this study will bring together all of this information to give us a clearer picture of what the evidence says and where more research is needed. What we find will also help us let people know exactly what they can be doing to manage their risk.

¬ĎPeople think that not much can be done, but a growing weight of evidence suggests this isn¬ít true. Physical exercise, keeping a low blood pressure and cholesterol, not smoking and eating healthily and can all affect your chances of developing dementia.

¬ĎFor example, studies have shown that, a healthy Mediterranean diet could reduce your risk by a third whereas obesity can double your risk. This study will combine this evidence to give us a holistic approach to the facts.¬í

The first half of the findings of the review will be ready for Alzheimer¬ís Awareness Week 2007 (1 ¬Ė 7 July 2007). This year¬ís Awareness Week will focus on what people can do to reduce their risk of developing dementia, like make simple changes to their lifestyle.

A new booklet ¬ĎBe Headstrong¬í which tells people how they can reduce their risks is available from Alzheimer¬ís Society local branches during Alzheimer¬ís Awareness Week or from www.challengedementia.org.uk

¬∑ Alzheimer¬ís Awareness Week is the 1 ¬Ė 7 July 2007

¬∑ Copies of the Alzheimer¬ís Awareness Week brochure ¬ĎBe Headstrong. Challenge your risk of Dementia¬í are available on request.

¬∑ For information about Alzheimer¬ís Awareness Week¬ģ 2007 and activities happening across the country visit www.challengedementia.org.uk

· 1 in 3 older people will end their lives with a form of dementia.

· 700,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, more than half have Alzheimer’s disease. In less than 20 years nearly a million people will be living with dementia. This will soar to 1.7 million people by 2051. 1 in 5 people over 80 have dementia.

· The Alzheimer’s Society champions the rights of people living with dementia and those who care for them. The Alzheimer’s Society works in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

· As a charity, the Alzheimer’s Society depends on the generosity of the public to help it care, research and campaign for people with dementia. You can donate now by calling 0845 306 0898 or visiting www.alzheimers.org.uk

· The Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Helpline number is 0845 300 0336 or visit www.alzheimers.org.uk

Insulin spray improves memory in Alzheimer’s

New York: Memory loss in people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease can be reduced with a new nasal spray containing the hormone insulin.

Tests on US patients with the spray showed that insulin which is absorbed into the bloodstream acted as a memory booster.

Insulin is also injected by diabetes to normalise their blood suger levels and scientists now believe that diabetes and Alzheimer’s may be linked.

Currrently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, a distressing disease in which the brain’s message centre is disrupted by the build up of plaques causing memory loss. Increasing numbers of people are suffering worldwide.

The spray has been developed by US firm Kurze Technology which carried out tests on 24 Alzheimer’s patients. Half were given the spray and half a placebo over a period of six months.

Those on the hormone saw a 20 per cent improvement during memory tests whilst the other had no improvement.

Coffee boosts memory and alertness

London: Coffee is good for the memory and may help ageing brains stay more alert, says researchers from the UK’s University of Birmingham.

Dr Martin Vreugdenhill said that research into drinking cofee, the most widely used psychoactive drug, has shown that it increases alertness and speeds up the mental processing of information.

It works by altering the brain’s electrical activity by boosting gamma rhythms associated with learning and memory. Coffee lessens the levels of a chemical, called adenosine, that blocks gamma rhythms in older brains.

According to Dr Vreugdenhill drinking coffee regularly can triple gamma rhythm activity. At the same time he highlighted that drinking too much coffee could have adverse effects on health.

Menopause causes memory loss, doctors reveal

Boston: The menopause does cause memory loss, doctors at the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York have discovered.

Research shows that the stress of women’s lives combined with a drop in the hormone oestrogen makes them struggle to learn information in the way they did when they were younger.

Scientists say many menopausal women have difficulty recalling facts or names, causing them to worry that their memories are fading.

Doctors at the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York said they had noticed more such women attending clinics fearing they may be developing early Alzheimer’s disease. But it was discovered that the women who complained of forgetfulness were actually simply having problems learning new information.

They found that contrary to what many of the participants feared, there was no evidence that the women had worse memory problems than normal.

In fact, they had just never had the time to learn things properly in the first place. Although all were perfectly capable of learning new facts, for some reason they did not fully absorb them.

The researchers said the problem was similar to when a doctor tells a patient something serious may be wrong and provides lots of detailed information. Later the patient can often barely remember what was said to them.

The findings could help menopausal women to discover new ways to improve their recall powers. The researchers have called for larger studies to confirm their findings.