Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

Alzheimer's Disease Prevention shown by happy grandpa and grandson playing chess in spring garden

Project Summary: Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

Simple dietary changes are being studied for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease or memory issues. Testosterone, fish oil (DHA), and lithium are promising supplements currently included in clinical and preclinical trials.

  • Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias seriously compromise the welfare of over 50 million people worldwide. The number is expected to double by 2050.
  • Significant research effort has sought to understand Alzheimer’s disease, but we are currently without a cure or adequate biomarkers to detect the early stage of the disease.
  • Reducing the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease by addressing modifiable risk factors is a step that can be taken immediately, prior to having a cure.
  • Development of noninvasive or easily-obtainable biomarkers for early stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease would support widespread testing and likely better outcomes with earlier treatments.
  • Parsemus Foundation advocates for the evaluation of treatments that are already available to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or memory loss.
  • The foundation has supported the early stages of a clinical trial to better understand the impact of testosterone and DHA (fish oil) for cognition in men with memory complaints. The study also seeks to develop early diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The Parsemus Foundation also funded a study of cognition and Alzheimer’s disease markers after lithium treatment in a mouse model.

Project Topics

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain’s neurons that carry messages to other parts of the body. It is characterized by the accumulation of the protein fragment beta-amyloid (amyloid plaques) outside neurons and the accumulation of an abnormal form of the protein tau (neurofibrillary tangles) inside neurons. The impact of the plaques and tangles results in a vicious cycle of inflammation and atrophy of the brain. At first the brain can compensate, and the disease process can go on for 20 years before clear cognitive and behavioral changes signal a problem. Memory loss, impaired judgment, confusion, depression, personality changes and loss of interest may then occur.

The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease increases dramatically with age, with most people suffering from the disease being over the age of 65. Over 5 million people age 65 and over in the United States have the disease, and over 50 million people worldwide are living with dementia. More women than men develop Alzheimer’s disease, and certain genetic profiles have higher incidence of the disease. While we cannot do much to change our genes, there are modifiable risk factors. Probably the most important is maintaining cardiovascular health, since the same risk factors for cardiovascular disease (obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol) are also associated with increased risk for dementia. Physical exercise and a heart-healthy diet are key components to reducing the risk of both heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. See Additional Resources below for more information on Alzheimer’s disease.

The Parsemus Foundation has supported two research projects to better understand how dietary supplements and hormones affect memory, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s disease: a clinical trial of testosterone and fish oil (DHA) on amyloid plaque and a study of lithium orotate in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.

Evaluating the effects of testosterone and fish oil on memory 

Understanding why some people develop memory problems, including dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, is a complicated topic. We do know that hormones play a role. As we age, testosterone levels decline in both men and women. Low testosterone has been related to the neuropathology of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Diet is also a key factor in long-term health. Among other factors, we know that long chain omega-3 fatty acids are decreased in the brains of older people. Supplementing with fish oil which contains the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA appears to improve cognition in early stages of cognitive impairment. 

A randomized, controlled clinical trial conducted in Western Australia by the Australian Alzheimer’s Research Foundation has been evaluating the impact of fish oil and testosterone supplements on amyloid placque associated with Alzheimer’s in men with memory complaints. Click the button below to learn more.

Fish oil to prevent Alzheimer's disease

Evaluating the ability of lithium supplements to curb Alzheimer’s Disease

Lithium is a trace element that is known for its neuroprotective effect. Lithium carbonate is well-known as a treatment of bipolar disorder. Coincidentally, the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in individuals taking lithium carbonate for bipolar disorder is much lower than the general population. Low-dose lithium carbonate may also prevent cognitive decline and markers of Alzheimer’s Disease. Click the button below to learn more.

Yet the long-term side effects of lithium carbonate on the kidneys and thyroid are significant. Another lithium salt called lithium orotate is commonly available as an over-the-counter supplement and appears to be safer and effective at lower doses than lithium carbonate. 

The University of Saskatchewan has been studying lithium orotate for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology in humanized hybrid mice. The current study involves a deeper understanding of the interplay of diet, genetics and lithium by evaluating the impact of high sugar (common on Western diets), the APOE4 allele, and lithium orotate in this mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.

Take Action on Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

Diet and lifestyle habits can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and diabetes. Learn more about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – and what you can do to lower your risk. See Additional Resources below for general information, and our pages on testosterone and fish oil or lithium for preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

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