Nutrition and Neurodegenerative diseases

“You are what you eat”. The importance of nutrition for the human health has been known since the ancient times. There is no doubt that nutrition is one of the prime factors that affect the health of any living being, plants or animals alike.

Recently, a lot of research has been focused in the role of nutrition in human health. Epidemiological studies in human and experimental animal studies have been conducted to see if there is any particular association between human diet and diseases.

One of the areas that scientists are prioritizing is Neurodegenerative diseases which include dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It has been estimated that 30% of the total population will be over 65 years of age by 2050. With the increasing population, there will also be an increase in the economic burden to take care and to treat the age related disorders which might call for the measures for preventing or even reversing the age related health disorders. Among the potential option for achieving this is the use of nutritional substances for the prevention of the age related diseases.

The relationship between nutrition and cognitive decline is complex and it might be multifactorial involving several environemental factors such as nutrients, pollutants, chemicals, physical activity, lifestyle, physical and mental stress.

Epidemiological studies have shown that micronutrients such as Vitamin B, C D and E, flavonoids, polyunsaturated omega-3-fatty acids to have protective role in the prevention of cognitive decline, dementia and AD. So, consumption of these foods containing these micronutrients might help in preventing the neurodegeneration and other health related disorders associated with aging.

One of the mechanisms behind the age related disorders is oxidative stress. It is involved in almost all of the diseases associated with old age such as neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. To decrease the oxidative stress in our cells, we have to have proper nutrition containing antioxidants. In addition meditation, exercise might also help in reducing the stress which might be involved in oxidative stress.

Brain is a plastic organ that can be molded into different ways and nutrition definitely plays a big role in molding the brain by facilitating in creating the good brain environment. However, we should not forget a big picture that a proper nutrition is beneficial not only to our brain, but also to all the organs of our body.


Fearing dementia during old age??Vitamin B might be the solution!!!!

Vitamin B12

Sources of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin which has a wide range of function including DNA synthesis and myelination of neurons. A new research study published by University of Oslo has shown yet another vital role of Vitamin B12 in neurological diseases. People suffering from early stage cognitive impairment called Mild Cognitive impairment(MCI) and impending dementia will benefit from the new discovery.The findings of the research have shown Vitamin B12 to be effective in preventing Alzheimer’s disease, especially in those who have high level of homocysteine in their body. Homocysteine is an amino acid, which is thought to be involved in the formation of neurofibrillary tangles in the neurons, thus disrupting the communication between neurons and giving rise to AD. There is a direct proportional relation between increased blood homocysteine level and the rise in mild cognitive impairment.

An elevated level of homocysteine can be reduced by administering Vitamin B12. It can be administered orally, or via injection. But the dose of Vitamin B12 in these persons must be higher than the normal dietary requirement.

What are the sources of Vitamin B12?

Sources of Vitamin B12: Sea foods like salmon, shrimps, sardines; milk and milk products; eggs,red meat and liver and legumes. Vegetarians must be careful to avoid dietary deficiency of Vitamin B12. It’s advisable for the vegetarians to take Vitamin B12 capsules. Similarly, elderly people and those who consume excessive alcohol might have poor absorption of this vitamin. In these cases, it’s better to check your Vitamin B12 level regularly and take the parenteral (injection) form of Vitamin B12.


Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) and its neuroprotective effects

What is Ashwagandha or Withania Somnifera?

Withania Somnifera(WS), also called Ashwagandha in Sanskrit is a herbal plant widely mentioned and used in ayurvedic medicine. In Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is used to enhance mental health and memory and research have proved that it, in fact, enhances memory. Recent studies have also shown that the ashwagandha root have other wide range of therapeutic properties like antistress, immunomodulatory and antioxidant.

Berry of the Withania somnifera plant

Berry of the Withania somnifera plant

Ashwagandha its use in neurodegenerative diseases:

The roots of Ashwagandha extracts have shown to reduce the number of hippocampal degenerating cells significantly in the brains of stressed rodents and were neuroprotective in animal models of Parkinson’s disease.

Studies done in rats at Defense Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences, India have shown that withania somnifera roots can improve the hypobaric hypoxic induced memory impairment and neuronal degeneration. Likewise, study done in Human neuronal cells at Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, USA showed that Ashwagandha(Withania Somnifera) benefits in Alzheimer’s disease(AD). It shows neuroprotective effects in AD.

Animal studies have shown that withania somnifera reverses the behavioral deficits, plaque pathology and accumulation of β-amyloid peptides (Aβ) in the brain. The roots of WS reverse the effect of beta amyloid induced toxicity in AD. Accumulation of β-amyloid is known to be one of the major pathogenesis associated with AD. Thus withania somnifera (WS) extracts can be used as an agent for the prevention of AD. β-amyloid and ashwagandha treated cells  showed no reduction in spine density, spine area, spine length and number of spines as compared to untreated control thus showing the protective effect of ashwagandha on spine density. It is the reduction of spine area, spine length and number of spines which are related to neurodegenerative diseases causing decrease in synaptic plasticity and thus compromising learning and memory. Study done at Chonbuk National University, South Korea has shown that WS stimulates the NMDA receptor in hippocampal cells which is the brain area important for learning and memory.

So, Ashwagandha is an important herb and recent studies have shown promising results regarding its medical benefits, nevertheless in neurodegenerative diseases.


Janardhan Prasad Bhattarai, Soo Joung Park, and Seong Kyu Han, Potentiation of NMDA receptors by Withania somnifera on hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons

Am. J. Chin. Med. 41, 503 (2013). DOI: 10.1142/S0192415X13500365

Baitharu I, Jain V, Deep SN, Hota KB, Hota SK, Prasad D, IIavazhagan G, Withania somnifera root extract ameliorates hypobaric hypoxia induced memory impairment in rats.

J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Jan 30;145(2):431-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.10.063. Epub 2012 Dec 2

Kurapati KR, Atluri VS, Samikkannu T, Nair MP, Ashwangha (Withania somnifera) Reverses β-amyloid 1-42 Induced Toxicity in Human Neuronal Cells: Implications in HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders (HAND) PLoS One. 2013 Oct 16;8(10):e77624. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077624

Turmeric for Brain

Turmeric is an essential ingredient of south Asian food .It’s powder is widely used as a spice in curry by people residing in South Asia. The medical benefits of turmeric have been studied extensively in the past decade. Although useful for its anti-inflammatory effect in several systemic diseases, its usefulness in Alzheimer’s disease, a neurodegenerative disease which severs the cognitive function of  human, has drawn the attention in the last decade .

Fig: Turmeric Powder (Source: Wikipedia)

Turmeric is a sterile plant, the root of which is dried and crushed to make a bright yellow spice. It has been used widely in India for last 2500 years for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and carminative properties. Turmeric contain a natural phenol called curcumin in it. It’s the curcumin that is found to be responsible for all these properties of turmeric. The bright yellow color of turmeric is also due to the presence of this natural phenol curcumin.

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease with progressive impairment in cognitive function. Memory is the most compromised aspect of cognition in Alzheimer’s disease. Loss of memory is called dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly people. The frequency of this disease increases with age.

Various researches have been conducted, both in animal and humans throughout the world regarding the role of turmeric in preventing  Alzheimer’s. Study done at Singapore showed that people eating curry showed better cognition than those who did not eat curry. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in adults aged 70-79 years in US is 4.4 times higher than that in India. These are some of the epidemiological data supporting the role of turmeric in Alzheimer’s disease.

As mentioned before, the chemical identified in turmeric, which plays a crucial role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease is called curcumin. It prevents the formation of amyloid plaques which is a hallmark of  Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid plaques are neurotoxic and are responsible for the loss of neurons eventually leading to loss of memory present in AD. Experiments done in lab animals have shown that curcumin prevents the formation of amyloid plaques by its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Similarly, it also prevents the formation of amyloid plaques indirectly by lowering the blood cholesterol level.

So, adding a small quantity of turmeric powder daily in your food might be of great help to your brain in long term. It is also a cost effective way of preventing alzheimer’s disease given the large budget that is currently being spent in tackling this disease in Europe and the US. As the consumption of turmeric has already been a difference behind the high incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in west as compared to Asia, its time to promote its use worldwide.

To conclude, start using turmeric powder folks, the experimental results are not that bad!!!


Mishra S, Palanivelu K, The effect of curcumin(turmeric) in Alzheimer’s disease: an overview, Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology 2008 Jan-Mar;11(1):13-19

Brain food

Two Juglans regia walnuts.

Two Juglans regia walnuts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What are brain foods?

Brain foods are those foods that help in nourishing your brain, one of the most vital organ of your body. They can be fruits, vegetables, cereals or fish.

Why are brain foods important?

They consist of several micro nutrients like anti-oxidants and macro-nutrients like fatty acids and proteins that are necessary for the smooth metabolism of brain.

Name some brain food.

Blueberries, nuts and seeds, pomegranate, broccoli, green pumpkin, beans, kiwi fruit, Avocado, wild salmon, whole grains like oat, brown rice, freshly brewed tea, dark chocolates , salmon are some of the brain foods.

Do brain food protect us from disease?

According to the researchers  of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute and Brain Injury Research Center , Omega-3 fatty acids(a unsaturated fatty acid) which is  found in brain food like salmon, kiwi, nuts  is found to improve learning and memory . These foods also  in fighting against  mental disorders like depression and mood disorders, schizophrenia, and dementia.

According to Dr Neal D Bernard, an American physician, vitamin E present in nuts and seeds, the anthocyanins that give grapes and berries their color, and the omega-3 traces in green vegetables have protective role in the brain. These are responsible for lowering the risks of cognitive disease.

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