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Micronutrients and Alzheimer's disease

  • Hannes B. Staehelin (a1)

The current high life expectancy is overshadowed by neurodegenerative illnesses that lead to dementia and dependence. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common of these conditions, and is considered to be a proteinopathy, with amyloid-β42 as a key factor, leading via a cascade of events to neurodegeneration. Major factors involved are oxidative stress, perturbed Ca homeostasis and impaired energy metabolism. Protection against oxidative stress by micronutrients (including secondary bioactive substances) has been shown in transgenic Alzheimer model systems to delay AD. Epidemiological evidence is less conclusive, but the vast majority of the evidence supports a protective effect on cognitive functions in old age and AD. Thus, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables but also containing meat and fish is the most suitable to provide adequate micronutrients. The strong link between cardiovascular risk and AD may be explained by common pathogenetic mechanisms mediated, for example, by homocysteine and thus dependant on B-vitamins (folate and vitamins B12 and B6). However, micronutrients may also be harmful. The high affinity of amyloid for metals (Fe, Al and Zn) favours the generation of reactive oxygen species and triggers an inflammatory response. Micronutrients in a balanced diet have a long-lasting, albeit low, protective impact on brain aging, hence prevention should be life long.

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Proceedings of the Nutrition Society
  • ISSN: 0029-6651
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