Alzheimer's Disease, Is there hope with vitamin D and Turmeric?
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Since its discovery during the epidemic of rickets in the early 1920s, the physiological effects of vitamin D on calcium/phosphorus homeostasis have been thoroughly studied. Along with the understanding of its actions on bone diseases and advances in cellular and molecular biology, this misnamed vitamin has gained attention as a potential player in a growing number of physiological processes and a variety of diseases.
During the last 25 years, vitamin D has emerged as a serious candidate in nervous system development and function and a therapeutic tool in a number of neurological pathologies. More recently, experimental and pre-clinical data suggest a link between vitamin D status and cognitive function. Human studies strongly support a correlation between low levels of circulating vitamin D and cognitive impairment or dementia in aging populations. Also, animal studies show that supplementation with vitamin D is protective against biological processes associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and enhances learning and memory performance in various animal models of aging and AD(1)
An international team, led by Dr David Llewellyn at the University of Exeter Medical School, found that study participants who were severely Vitamin D deficient were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
The team studied elderly Americans who took part in the Cardiovascular Health Study. They discovered that adults in the study who were moderately deficient in vitamin D had a 53 per cent increased risk of developing dementia of any kind, and the risk increased to 125 per cent in those who were severely deficient.
Similar results were recorded for Alzheimer's disease, with the moderately deficient group 69 per cent more likely to develop this type of dementia, jumping to a 122 per cent increased risk for those severely deficient.
The study was part-funded by the Alzheimer's Association, and is published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. It looked at 1,658 adults aged 65 and over, who were able to walk unaided and were free from dementia, cardiovascular disease and stroke at the start of the study. The participants were then followed for six years to investigate who went on to develop Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.(2)
Curcumin's ability to fight Alzheimer's
A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, found that vitamin D3 may activate key genes and cellular signaling networks to help stimulate the immune system to clear the amyloid-beta protein.
Laboratory work by the team demonstrated that specific types of immune cells in Alzheimer's patients may respond to therapy with vitamin D3 and curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric spice, by stimulating the innate immune system to clear amyloid beta
Curcumin, a natural product found in the spice turmeric, has been used by many Asian cultures for centuries, and a new study indicates a close chemical analog of curcumin has properties that may make it useful as a treatment for the brain disease.
Curcumin has demonstrated ability to enter the brain, bind and destroy the beta-amyloid plaques present in Alzheimer’s with reduced toxicity,” said Wellington Pham, Ph.D., assistant professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt and senior author of the study, published recently in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Accumulation and aggregation of protein fragments, known as beta-amyloid, drives the irreversible loss of neurons in Alzheimer’s disease.(3)
1. Vitamin D, Cognition and Alzheimer’s Disease: The Therapeutic Benefit is in the D-Tails J Alzheimers Dis. 2016; 53(2): 419–444.
2. Vitamin D and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease. Neurology, August 2014
3. Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "Curcumin's ability to fight Alzheimer's studied." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 January 2015.