FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Is Alzheimer’s Disease Caused by a Virus?

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Experts suggest that more than 5.5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common cause of dementia, i.e., Alzheimer’s’ disease may affect about 1 in 9 people. Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning that can interfere with a person’s daily life and activities. AD is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. The causes of dementia can vary depending on the type that also includes not only AD, but Lewy body dementia or vascular dementia and it is common for people to have a combination of two types. AD is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906 after he noted symptoms of memory loss, language problems and unpredictable behaviors in a female mental illness patient. After her death and autopsy of her brain, he reported he found abnormal clumps that are now referred to as amyloid plaques and tangled  bundles of fibers now called neurofibrillary or tau tangles. It is thought that these abnormalities stop the function of healthy neurons that ultimately lose their connections and die. The causes of AD are unknown, but can be combinations of genetics, environmental and lifestyle factors. An improper diet has been suggested as a possible contributor by inflicting free radical or inflammatory damages. Positive dietary adjustments may also play a role in preventing the disease. Recently animal research has investigated other prevention treatments that may help to allay the effects of lifestyle factors on Alzheimer’s disease. “The brain of an individual with Alzheimer’s disease is a harsh place filled with buildups of harmful nerve cell junk—amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles—and dramatic loss of nerve cells and connections that occur with severe cognitive decline, such as memory loss. Targeting and disrupting this harmful junk, specifically amyloid plaques, to restore brain function has been the basis of many failed clinical trials. This futility has led to a re-evaluation of the amyloid hypothesis—the central dogma for Alzheimer’s disease pathology based on the toxic accumulation of amyloid plaques.” “At the same time, there have been traces of evidence for exercise playing a preventative role in Alzheimer’s disease, but exactly how this occurs and how to take advantage of it therapeutically has remained elusive. Exercise has been shown to create biochemical changes that fertilize the brain’s environment to mend nerve cell health.”  Excerpt from “How Exercise Might ‘clean” the Alzheimer’s Brain.” by Jonathan D. Grinstein in Scientific American, October 16, 2018. A recent hypothesis presented in this post involves the possible role of an infectious cause. At the heart of current thinking is the association of the herpes virus as a possible suspect and several research studies have provided some support to this proposal. However, the offending agent has yet to be identified.  It took nearly 300 years for science to finally recognize that spontaneous generation did not cause disease; thus, the germ theory began to be recognized. Bottom Line: Prevention may be the key to alleviating the devastating effects of whatever causes AD. Until the scientific community knows more, it may be prudent to practice healthy lifestyle habits (diet and exercise) to delay the damage AD causes. For more details, CLICK HERE.

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