Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases have been found to involve inflammation and oxidative stress (damage from free radicals) and it has been hoped that use of anti-inflammatory or antioxidant agents might reduce the development or severity of Alzheimer’s. Studies have been done with a variety of antioxidants such as Vitamin E, C, Carotenoids, Lipoic acid and Coenzyme Q10. Unfortunately, animal studies have shown mixed results and human studies have not clearly shown benefit.
A recent study from the University of Missouri looked at the effect of green tea extract (EGCG) in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s. The mice were also given access to an exercise wheel. It was found that their performance in a maze test as well as nest forming behavior improved significantly. In addition, brain levels of beta amyloid which is associated with Alzheimer’s were noticeably reduced. The researchers were excited about the possibility of a food extract actually reducing the manifestations of Alzheimer’s.
A human study out of Barcelona looked more generally at dietary influences on age related cognitive decline. A group of 447 older individuals without a history of cognitive dysfunction were given one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet with an additional liter of extra virgin olive oil, the same diet with 30 grams a day of mixed nuts instead of the olive oil, or a reduced fat diet.
The third group demonstrated a decline in cognitive function, whereas the Mediterranean groups showed increased memory in the mixed nut group or improved global and frontal (attention and executive function) cognition in the olive oil group.
These two studies are certainly not definitive regarding the treatment or prevention of neurodegenerative conditions, but they are additional pieces of information that support using a diet rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants which may offer benefits in many spheres of human (and mouse) health.