Alzheimers Disease Treatment Antioxidant

Researchers believe that free radical damage, a culprit in the aging process, may also play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Learn how antioxidant activity may help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Antioxidant Activity and Aging

Your body metabolizes oxygen by means of a chemical reaction in the mitochondria in your cells. Free radicals are a by-product of these reactions. A free radical is an oxygen molecule with one extra, unpaired electron. Since this unpaired electron makes the free radical very unstable, the molecule will try to steal an extra electron from another molecule. The molecule that gives up an electron becomes a free radical itself, creating a chain reaction of free radical production.

Free radicals aren’t all bad. Your body’s immune system, for example, uses free radicals to fight off bacteria and viruses in the body. However, many scientists hold to the free radical theory, which states that free radical damage to cells, proteins, DNA, etc., is a major factor in the aging process, as well as certain disorders, such as:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Arthritis
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Cancer
  • Cataracts
  • Diabetes.

Many researchers believe that antioxidant activity can help reduce the damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants (such as vitamins C, E and A) neutralize free radicals by freely giving up one of their own electrons, yet they themselves remain stable and don’t need to steal electrons from other molecules.

Antioxidants and Alzheimer’s

Some studies suggest that free radical damage is partly to blame for the brain cell damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease. If this is true, antioxidant activity may help prevent or delay onset of the disease and other forms of dementia.

In recent years, researchers have performed a number of studies examining the connection between antioxidants and Alzheimer’s disease. The results, however, have been quite variable. Some studies show a positive therapeutic link between antioxidants and Alzheimer’s, while others show no significant connection at all. Overall, it appears that antioxidant activity may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in some people.

Doctors caution against taking vitamin E supplements without medical supervision, as it can increase the risk of certain health problems, such as hemorrhaging.

Antioxidant Foods

With literally hundreds of different carotenes and eight different forms of vitamin E, many nutritionists agree that fruits and vegetables are better sources of antioxidants than supplements. A single supplement can’t offer the variety that antioxidant foods do. Evidence also suggests that these compound varieties interact together to produce a higher quality of antioxidant activity than one, isolated variety contained in a supplement.

Fruits and vegetables are the best antioxidant foods. Among them, the top-ranking antioxidant fruits are:

  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries.

Vegetables with the highest antioxidant content include:

  • Artichoke hearts
  • Beans
  • Russet potatoes.

You’ll want to eat a wide range of fruits, vegetables and other antioxidant foods to ensure that you’re getting a variety of vitamins and antioxidants in your diet.

Resources

American Health Assistance Foundation. (n.d.) Potential Alzheimer’s treatments. Retrieved June 15, 2010, from http://www.ahaf.org/alzheimers/treatment/potential/.

Engelhart, M. J. et al. (2002). Dietary intake of antioxidants and risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Retrieved June 15, 2010, from http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/287/24/3223.

Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. (n.d.) Alzheimer’s approved drugs. Retrieved June 16, 2010, from http://www.alzinfo.org/alzheimers-treatment-cognitive.asp.

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Alternative medicine. Retrieved June 15, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161/DSECTION=alternative-medicine.

Nelson, J. and Zeratsky, K. (2009). Antioxidant supplements: Prevention in a pill? Retrieved June 16, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/antioxidant-supplements/MY00527.

U.S. National Institutes of Health National Institute on Aging. (n.d.) Aging under the microscope. Retrieved June 15, 2010, from http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/AgingUndertheMicroscope/chapter03.htm.