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ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE AND HOMOCYSTEINE

The most common cause of senility in North America is Alzheimer's disease, a horrible condition in which a person loses his capacity to reason, think, recognize and function. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that people who have high blood levels of a protein called homocysteine are the ones most likely to suffer Alzheimer's disease(1).

Former president Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer's disease, as have some Nobel Prize winners and some of the most brilliant people who have walked this earth. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that extraordinarily poor people in Ibadan, Nigeria are far less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than their relatives in Indianapolis, further confirming that Alzheimer's disease is probably not genetic but is caused by something in North American lifestyle or environment (2). One in ten North Americans develop Alzheimer's disease by age 65, and 5 in 10 develop it by age 85.

Alzheimer's disease means that the brain is damaged and dying brain cells mix with tangles of the protein beta amyloid. Ten years ago, the Kentucky nuns study showed that nuns who have the most ministrokes show the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, while many with lots of beta amyloid do not have signs of that disease. Anything that increases your chances of developing a stroke or a heart attack also increases your chances of developing Alzheimer's disease. So the risk factors for Alzheimer's disease include smoking, being overweight, not exercising, eating a high fat diet, eating too many calories, and having high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol levels. Dietary risk factors include not eating enough vegetables; lack of omega-3 fatty acids found in whole grains, beans, seeds and deep water fish; and eating too much meat.

Dr. David Snowden shows in his Kentucky Nuns Study that nuns who were most likely to suffer Alzheimer's disease have low blood levels of the vitamin folic acid and high levels of the protein building block homocysteine. Not eating enough leafy greens and whole grains can deprive you of the vitamin folic acid, and eating too much meat provides you with too much methionine, and the combination of these two factors raises brain levels of homocysteine, that punches holes in arteries and causes plaques to form in them to cause ministrokes, which damages your brain.

Methionine is an essential protein building block that your body uses to make another nonessential building block called cysteine. If you lack any of the three vitamins: B12, folic acid or pyridoxine, methionine is converted to a poison called homocysteine that damages arteries and causes strokes, heart attacks and Alzheimer's disease. Meat is one of the richest sources of methionine, and leafy greens and whole grains are full of folic acid that prevents methionine from being converted to homocysteine. Reducing your intake of meat and poultry lowers your intake of methionine. Folic acid is found everywhere in nature that you get carbohydrates, because folic acid helps your body convert carbohydrates to energy. You can help to prevent Alzheimer's disease by getting folic acid from all whole grains and fortified cereals, leafy green vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, and many other plants; and by reducing your intake of methionine by eating less meat. If homocysteine is above 100, take folic acid, pyridoxine and B12 (readily available in combination pills such as Foltex or Fol-B.)

1)NEJM Feb 14, 2002.

2) JAMA February 14, 2001

Checked 8/9/05

May 31st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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